While much of the activism, politics, and media around global warming rightly focuses on reducing the use of fossil fuels and stopping pipelines that threaten to expand fossil fuel use, the forests in Northwest California are quietly absorbing vast quantities of carbon rivaling the most productive ecosystems on earth and sustaining natural communities and services humans depend on.
Northern California is home to 4 of the top 10 carbon-storing national forests in the country. Our forests breathe in excess carbon dioxide caused by burning of fossil fuels, and store the carbon in their trunks, roots, and surrounding soil for centuries—if allowed to grow.
Let me explain: as trees grow, they suck up carbon dioxide from the air and trap it in their trunk, limbs, roots, and leaves—or to use the fancy science term, this carbon is “sequestered.” As a tree grows, it becomes a carbon “sink,” storing more carbon than it emits. And the bigger the tree, the more carbon can be stored away.
Logging short-circuits this process and accelerates the transfer of stored carbon back into the atmosphere. This is especially important in regards to old-growth forests. If a tree had been pulling from the atmosphere for 700 years, as many old-growth redwoods on the north coast have, then if that tree is cut down, it will emit significant amounts of carbon that had been stored for hundreds of years.
Just like fossil fuels, this carbon had long ago been removed from the carbon cycle; like stepping on the gas pedal in your car, logging these high-carbon forests will only speed up global climate change by releasing a sudden influx of long-stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Recruiting and preserving big, old trees is like hitting the brakes, slowing our rate of carbon emissions by keeping carbon in the trees.
Conservation victories over the last 25 years have shifted the northwest forest landscape from a net source of carbon to a net carbon sink. Proposals by Congress and the U.S. Forest Service to increase logging on public lands would increase carbon emissions, reverse hard-earned conservation gains, and fly in the face of what we know we must do to prevent an all out climate disaster.
With your financial support, EPIC will champion the important role our forests play in carbon sequestration and climate change, and be ready to push back on Big Timber interests, who have their eye on our public forests. For the love of forests, please donate today and help EPIC be ready to stop them.