We must stop fighting over our forest and unite to start fighting for our forest

Conversations around the forest are playing on the national stage and here at home. Recently, to commemorate Earth Day, President Joe Biden traveled to Washington state to announce an executive order to protect mature and mature forests on federal lands.

It is no coincidence that Biden chose Washington to make this announcement. There is no place more important than our forests than in Evergreen State.

Washington’s forests work every day on our behalf, cleaning our air and water, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife, essential jobs for rural Washington and the wood we need for our homes, hospitals, and schools. They also help us adapt to a rapidly changing climate and reduce further warming by removing carbon from the atmosphere. Indeed, our forests absorb about 35% of our country’s carbon emissions.

But our forest is at a crossroads. For the first time, our country is less than 50% forested. Deforestation doesn’t just happen in the Amazon, it’s a reality here. Our forests are being replaced by shopping malls, subdivisions and parking lots.

At the same time, we are facing a forest health crisis across Washington that threatens millions of hectares of forest land and fuels wildfires. The devastating fires we have recently experienced have not only resulted in further forest loss, they are also polluting our air and exacerbating climate change.

Our forests intersect not only with today’s biggest environmental problems, but also with economic and social problems. The growing gap in housing prices and people’s ability to buy them is a crisis impacting our urban and rural communities — increasing homelessness, displacement and forest conversion.

The health of our forests impacts everyone in Washington, and we all have a stake in their future. For this reason, our forests should unite us — not separate us.

To use forests to solve our climate crisis, we need to combine offensive and defensive strategies. We must increase carbon sequestration in our forest carbon sinks and built environment.

To achieve this important balance, the Department of Natural Resources focuses on a three-part strategy: maintaining and expanding forest cover; promote and promote the use of sustainable and locally sourced forest products; and; improve forest health to make our forests more resistant to drought, disease and forest fires.

First, we have preserved in permanent habitat protection more than 40% of the 2 million hectares of publicly owned forest land managed by the DNR. We also accelerated tree planting in urban areas and burned areas to increase forest cover.

And recently, we launched the first carbon offset project, which will conserve another 10,000 hectares of high ecological value forest in Western Washington. These forests will generate tens of millions of dollars through carbon credits that will fund local government services such as schools and libraries. Through carbon credits, these forests will, over the next 10 years, offset the estimated two billion miles of emissions driven by gas-powered cars.

The project is the first time in the country that a state agency has used carbon markets to quickly remove forest stands from planned logging schedules, many of which are scheduled for immediate logging. As a result, the credits generated by the project represent a very powerful incremental calculation, far more than the typical carbon offset projects currently on the market.

Carbon reduction considered addition only if the project will not happen but for the carbon credits market. Additions are critical to the quality of carbon offset credits — if the associated carbon credits are not added, then buying carbon credits in lieu of emission reductions will exacerbate climate change.

By incorporating these acres into carbon leases, similar to existing DNR leases for renewable energy or agriculture, we are conserving high ecological value forests while also creating higher standards of sustainable and verifiable carbon sequestration for carbon markets that will have an impact. which is greater in the greenhouse effect. gas reduction.

Carbon projects like this give us another tool in the toolbox for managing our public lands sustainably and responsibly while raising the bar for meeting the challenges of climate change.

Playing on climate violations also means investing in our working forests. Buildings with wood store carbon in the built environment and require less energy to manufacture than materials such as steel or concrete. Maintaining our working forests, increasing their carbon storage capacity and rate, and encouraging the use of wood in our built environment, increases our ability to store carbon and fight climate change.

At the same time, we must help our forests play a climate defense.

Here, we have made significant progress in restoring the health of our forests from conditions that trigger catastrophic wildfires, treating fire-prone forests with prescribed thinning and fire. But it is not enough just to prevent our forests from burning, we must also prevent the 9.2 million hectares of our working forest from being developed.

Indeed, given the value of our forests for storing carbon and adapting to climate change, we not only need to maintain current forest lands, we must improve forest lands.

These investments in forests, forest products and the health of our forests will not only help solve our climate crisis, they will also help meet our affordable housing needs and support nearly $6 billion a year in well-paying jobs in our communities.

Our forests are key to accelerating our transition to a sustainable environment, renewable economy and equitable society.

More than ever, we must unite to confront the threats facing our forests, and we must recognize that all of our forests matter.

More than ever, we must stop fighting over our forests and unite to start fighting for our forests.

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