Medford, Oregon

Contact for more information

George Sexton, Conservation Director, KS Wild
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild
Meriel Darzen, Staff Attorney, Crag Law Center

In response to a challenge brought by conservation organizations, on Friday a federal district court found that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) violated the law with its “Integrated Vegetation Management” (IVM) program, which proposed aggressive logging in forest areas set aside for forest conservation.

The IVM project proposed logging in the Late Successional Reserves (LSR), areas endowed with the purpose of habitat protection.  The Court found that the heavier commercial logging prescriptions contemplated in these reserved areas could result in long term destruction of functioning older forest habitats in violation of BLM’s own management plan, and that “BLM cannot ignore that simply because it wants to increase commercial logging.” Findings at 18, 20. 

“The BLM once again put its logging agenda above collaboration, fire resiliency, and wildlife habitat” said George Sexton, KS Wild Conservation Director, “and the Court held them to account for ignoring science, the law and the public in their rush to log the LSRs.”

The agency attempted to justify the proposed widespread commercial logging by arguing that the logging would increase wildfire resilience. The Court noted that this proposition “received deep public disapproval and skepticism.” Findings at 28. Ultimately, the Court expressed “serious doubt upon the reasonableness” of this conclusion because there is “substantial evidence that BLM’s chosen logging prescriptions would not have the intended effect and would instead exacerbate fire issues.”  Findings at 28-29.  Specifically, the Court explained that relevant scientific studies have found that logging designed to create “open” conditions and the “gap creation” authorized by the BLM could create “highly flammable young stocks interspersed throughout the thinned units,” and could “increase fire hazard in these stands.” Findings at 28-29.

 “Consistently, studies have concluded that the gap creation and logging to create “open” conditions proposed here leads to worse fire outcomes on the ground,” said Cascadia Wildlands’ Legal Director Nick Cady. “Maximizing timber volume from our public forests is going to perpetuate wildfire risk for our region, but there is a clear opportunity for collaboration around lighter logging prescriptions that can help restore older forest habitats and reduce fire risk.”

The Court recognized this opportunity and found that “[g]iven the mutual affection for Oregon’s forests shared by all in this action, the Court is confident that dedicated collaboration will result in an effective solution.” Findings at 35. The Court noted that the agency’s plan included non-commercial thinning and prescribed fire, which it described as “proactive and admirable strategies directed across many high-risk areas.” Findings at 35. The conservation organizations that brought the challenge specifically excluded those treatments from the lawsuit and will continue to urge for their widespread implementation by land managers. As the Court noted: “Getting this project right could benefit southwestern Oregon for years to come, while getting it wrong may have devastating consequences across the landscape for fire behavior and wildlife habitat.” Findings at 30. 

“We are heartened by the court’s recognition that logging that results in ‘massive canopy reduction’ within protected forests will cause long-term damage to old growth ecosystems and may increase fire hazard. It’s time for BLM to stop seeing virtually every tree as a problem solved by logging,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. 

While the Biden administration has acknowledged the importance of mature and old growth forests as a bulwark against the worst impacts of climate change, as well as for their wildlife habitat, recreation and other conservation values, the Bureau of Land Management continues to propose reckless logging in many or our last remaining mature and old growth forests. This inconsistency in stated goals and implementation needs to end.


Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, KS Wild and Soda Mountain Wilderness Council were represented by attorneys from Cascadia Wildlands and Crag Law Center.

Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands defends and restores Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets. The organization envisions vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, a stable climate, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion. 

Oregon Wild’s mission is to protect and restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and water as an enduring legacy. Oregon Wild is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.

KS Wild’s mission is to protect and restore wild nature in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southwest Oregon and northwest California.

Soda Mountain Wilderness Council is dedicated to protecting and restoring wildlands and the outstanding biodiversity and important biological connectivity where the botanically significant Siskiyou Mountains join the southern Cascade Range in southwest Oregon and northwest California.

Through a unique model of “legal aid for the environment,” Crag Law Center provides free and low-cost legal services to people and organizations who are working on the ground to protect our environment, climate and communities. 

The Court’s Findings and Recommendations can be found here. They will be reviewed by Senior U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken. 

Plaintiffs’ complaint can be found here

Lights! Camera! Clearcuts!

As an Oregon Wild supporter, you know just how prevalent clearcutting is here in Oregon. Even on lands supposedly managed for everyone, the logging industry is regularly seen by government agencies like the Bureau of Land Management as their #1 constituent. Industrial clearcutting has dire consequences, not just for our climate, but for the fish and wildlife that live there, and for the communities that rely on forested watersheds for clean and reliable drinking water.

So when millions of dollars started flowing from taxpayers to the logging industry to greenwash clearcutting, we knew there was a different story to tell. 

Last month, we were able to take a CBS News correspondent out to Bureau of Land Management forests outside Carlton, Oregon that had been clearcut for a mass timber project.

Mass timber is a promising technology, but is currently being marketed as sustainable and “climate-smart” despite little concern for how the wood is being sourced. No “green” building should be associated with large-scale clearcuts, especially not clearcutting on public lands.

Tamanawas Falls by Tula Top

A logging project that long threatened some of the most important and treasured areas on Mount Hood’s eastern flank has been put on indefinite hold!

The Polallie-Cooper project proposed logging and new road-building near the beloved Tamanawas Falls trail and in proposed Cold Spring Creek Wild & Scenic River corridor. Oregon Wild advocates who have been arguing against the Polallie-Cooper project for nearly a decade can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

The project has been split in two with the less controversial elements moving forward this year and the more concerning elements being indefinitely postponed. We applaud Forest Service leadership for this change of course. However, we will still need to remain vigilant. While the most problematic logging elements were dropped, they could be resurrected in the future, though they would have to go through a new planning process. This reconsideration is a significant victory for protecting this iconic landscape.

An Unpopular Project for a Popular Hike

On any given day you can pull up to a trailhead in the Columbia River Gorge or Mount Hood and see the enthusiasm of people out enjoying their public lands. Few places represent this energy and excitement better than the area around Tamanawas Falls. The hike to the spectacular waterfall is one of the most beloved treks on the mountain.

Unfortunately, that popularity didn’t prevent the Forest Service from pursuing projects in the area that would degrade its values. Over the years, Polallie-Cooper has been resurrected in various iterations, always including controversial elements. Among these: logging in proposed Wilderness, logging in Wild and Scenic River corridors, logging near popular trails, new road building, and logging around Crystal Springs, the water source for Hood River.

Advocates Push Back

With hard work and persistence, Oregon Wild and our supporters have spent years monitoring this project and pushing back against parts of the proposal that would degrade some of the last remaining Wilderness-quality lands on Mount Hood. We even rallied members of the Oregon Congressional delegation to weigh in, asking the Forest Service tough questions and highlighting the area’s importance to hikers, mountain bikers, and river recreationists. 

Protections Needed

The good news is that Tamanawas Falls is included in Senator Ron Wyden’s River Democracy Act. This pending Congressional legislation would add safeguards for water quality, wildlife, scenic values and more by designating Cold Springs Creek as a Wild & Scenic River. Tamanawas Falls has also been proposed as Wilderness and included in draft legislation as far back as 2004. Sadly, Congress has yet to act to protect this special place, leaving it vulnerable to proposals like Polallie-Cooper.

Until Congress acts, it is up to us to safeguard places on Mount Hood like Tamanawas Falls, and continue to advocate for their protection. We hope it will not be too long before Tamanawas Falls has a champion in Congress, perhaps the next Representative for Oregon’s 3rd District, and this area, like so many other special places on Mount Hood, will finally receive the permanent protections it deserves.

Support the River Democracy Act

Medford, Oregon

Contact for more information

Michael Dotson, Executive Director, KS Wild
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator, Oregon Wild

Today, a coalition of conservation organizations again filed a legal complaint challenging the Medford District Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) efforts to aggressively log forest stands located outside of Gold Hill, Oregon.

Download the complaint

The Rogue Gold Forest Management Project (“Rogue Gold”) authorizes heavy commercial logging within Late Successional Reserves, areas expressly set aside for old forest conservation. The BLM is targeting mature and old-growth forests that are fire-resilient and provide important habitat for at-risk wildlife species. BLM admits that the purpose of the heavier logging prescriptions being authorized is the generation of commercial timber volume despite locating these logging activities within areas set aside for conservation, called Late Successional Reserves. 

In April of last year, conservation organizations previously challenged Medford BLM’s authorization of the Integrated Vegetation Management Project, which also called for heavy commercial logging in the Late-Successional Reserves. In the Rogue Gold project, BLM again proposes to implement the same heavy logging in the reserves but has since dropped the pretense that its more aggressive logging prescriptions would be beneficial for wildlife and fire, and admitted the purpose of the logging is to generate commercial timber volume.

“With IVM, BLM previously argued that this heavy commercial logging would be good for owls and fire safety for the surrounding community. The public, scientific organizations, and numerous conservation organizations vehemently disagreed and challenged that project,” said George Sexton, KS Wild Conservation Director. “While it is refreshing that BLM has abandoned this fake pretense and admitted that it is timber volume driving the more aggressive logging being proposed, it is does not make this logging any less illegal or worrisome.”

“BLM acknowledges that its logging will make fire issues worse for Oregon communities, degrade habitat and water quality, and remove some of the limited older forest we have left, but BLM has also long argued that its hands were tied by the Oregon & California Railroad Act from 1937,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director for Cascadia Wildlands. “Two appeal courts rejected this position last year, and just this Monday the Supreme Court declined to review that decision. BLM clearly has the discretion to manage these forests in the public interest. BLM needs to turn a new leaf and take its obligations to our communities seriously.”

The forests being targeted for logging in the Rogue Gold project are backyard forests for the Gold Hill and Rogue River communities. These areas are resilient, healthy, older forests that are designated as reserves for conservation, recreation, and water protection. While some aspects of the Rogue Gold project include restoration logging and prescribed burning, elements that could increase fire resilience of the area, Plaintiffs have narrowly focused their legal challenge on the heaviest of the commercial logging proposed by BLM, which will have negative consequences for fire resilience and protecting reserve values. 

“Where the BLM is interested in real restoration, we are fully supportive,” stated Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator for Oregon Wild, “but aggressively logging mature and old-growth habitat in the Late Successional Reserves that will increase fire hazard for the surrounding community is a very poor choice of priorities.”

The parties are represented by attorneys with Crag Law Center and Cascadia Wildlands. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Over the last several years, the logging industry has launched numerous legal attacks on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a natural treasure managed by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in southern Oregon. 

The Monument sits at the junction of three distinct bioregions and is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. The monument provides habitat for dozens of imperiled species of rare plants and animals. Despite its spectacular ecological value, logging companies and some county politicians have long argued it should be managed exclusively for logging because it includes so-called “O&C lands.”

Logging Industry Takes Challenge to the Supreme Court, Gets Denied

The logging industry found a sympathetic judge on the East Coast who was endorsing their extreme “timber dominant” interpretation of the 1937 O&C Act, but then they suffered a string of defeats at the appeal courts (thanks in part to strong opposition from conservation groups like Oregon Wild, and from the Biden administration). The timber industry took their well-funded argument all the way to the Supreme Court where, on Monday, their petition for review was ultimately denied, leaving the appeal court rulings as the law of the land.

This is an enormous victory for old-growth forests, wildlife habitat, and clean drinking water. The courts have definitively affirmed the authority of the BLM to establish protected areas on O&C lands and to manage for values other than industrial logging.

BLM Continues Logging Mature and Old-Growth Forests

Unfortunately, the BLM often shows little interest in using its authority for conservation. Oregon Wild and our allies regularly challenge aggressive mature and old-growth logging sales planned in areas set aside for water and wildlife. 

A new national BLM Conservation Rule being developed by the Biden Administration presents an opportunity to change this! Including O&C lands in the BLM Conservation Rule, and establishing strong standards to protect mature and old-growth forests from logging, would be a giant step forward for protecting wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, and our climate. It would also help ensure special places beyond the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument remain wild and beautiful for generations to come.

WASHINGTON  – U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a bill on Wednesday that seeks to block the Biden administration’s proposed nationwide forest plan amendment to advance protections for old-growth forests.”

The national old-growth forest plan amendment proposed in December, which followed calls for strong protection for America’s oldest forests from more than 500,000 people, was celebrated as a critical first step toward safeguarding mature and old-growth trees across federal lands. These trees are uniquely suited to serve as buffers against climate change because they absorb and sequester higher levels of carbon dioxide than younger stands of trees. Older, larger trees are also more resistant to wildfires.

The Climate Forests Campaign has been calling for stronger protections for mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal lands as a measure against climate change since February 2022. 

In response to Senator Barrasso’s bill introduction, members of the coalition, including NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Environment America, Earthjustice, Old-Growth Forest Network,  Oregon Wild, and Standing Trees issued the following statement:

“We appreciate the Biden Administration’s response to public support for durable protections for our mature and old-growth trees and forests and we support the Forest Service’s goals of protecting America’s old-growth forests through a National Old-Growth Amendment. 

“Senator Barrasso’s press release and bill is a mischaracterization of the Forest Service’s proposed old-growth forest amendment. If allowed to proceed, the Barrasso bill would only serve to undermine sound science and further jeopardize the last remaining old-growth forests on federal lands.

“This bill is an attack on an important step toward protecting our climate-critical trees and forests. Old-growth forests will continue to be vulnerable to logging if nothing is done to protect them. Done right, the Forest Service’s proposed amendment will help ensure that they can remain standing for the benefit of future generations and the climate.

“Our organizations and our allies will continue our efforts to demonstrate strong public support for protections that ensure that mature and old-growth forests can continue to store carbon, provide clean water and support wildlife for centuries to come.”

Last week marked a significant milestone as the Oregon Board of Forestry took a crucial step by voting to advance the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Western Oregon State forests. This decision comes after years of development and extensive input from thousands of supporters, including numerous activists like yourself, who advocated for heightened protections for public lands such as the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests.

Jim Kelly, Chair of the Board of Forestry, remarked, “At the end of the day, most Oregonians don’t want our state forests to be managed like a commercial tree farm.” His statement underscores a widely held sentiment, but the importance of moving forward with this plan extends beyond mere public preference—it’s imperative.

Decades of over-exploitation have plagued Oregon’s State Forests, compounded by rampant clearcutting on privately owned industrial tree farms dominating the Coast Range landscape. This mismanagement has pushed numerous species to the brink of extinction.

The Habitat Conservation Plan represents a compromise, albeit one we believe provides a vital opportunity for species to begin recovering. To truly foster the revival of imperiled species like the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, red tree voles, salmon, marten, and torrent salamanders, the passage of the HCP is an essential step in the right direction.

“State Forester Cal Mukumoto and the Board of Forestry did the right thing for our shared forests, fish, and birds, all in the face of intense opposition,” said Oregon Wild State Forest Program Coordinator Casey Kulla. “Oregonians spoke up, and the Board of Forestry listened. There’s a lot of hope today for the future of these forests that so many of us treasure and rely on.”

Three Wolves Found Dead in Klamath County

US Fish and Wildlife Service announces $50,000 award for information

Today, Oregon State Police and the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a $50,000 reward for information regarding three gray wolves found dead in Klamath County. The release does not specify whether these wolves were poached but asks for information to be sent to the Oregon State Police’s Turn in Poachers hotline.

Most wolf poachings in Oregon have been identified by the presence of wolves wearing GPS tracking collars giving off a “mortality signal” which has helped locate their remains. Only a small number of Oregon’s wolves wear these tracking collars.

“The deaths of these gray wolves, including a breeding female, is a devastating blow to the recovery of this iconic species in Oregon,” said Danielle Moser, Wildlife Program Manager for Oregon Wild. “We hope that the significant reward amount encourage anyone with information about these presumed poachings to come forward and help see that justice is done for this reprehensible act.” 

Since the beginning of 2023, 5 known wolves have been poached. This number does not include more wolves suspected of being poached, as revealed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife during a December presentation before the ODFW Commission.

“It is undeniable that the true number of wolf poaching is many times higher than what is discovered and investigated by law enforcement,” continued Moser.

In order to combat this pervasive poaching problem, the Oregon Wildlife Coalition, of which Oregon Wild is a founding member, created an Anti-Poaching Reward Fund. Oregon Wildlife Coalition and its partners contribute $10,000 to this reward. The program complements the already existing TIP (Turn In Poachers) program in which members of the public are incentivized to report any illegal or suspicious wildlife activity to the Oregon State Police.  Specifically, the Oregon Wildlife Coalition program expands the list of species eligible for a reward to include a broader list of mammals, birds, and imperiled wildlife species.

The known wolf population of Oregon is 178. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is expected to release an updated the annual wolf report this spring. So far, we know that since the beginning of 2023:

Known Poaching: 5
ODFW killed: 16
Transferred to Colorado: 10
Killed in self-defense: 1

According to numerous studies:

  • Attitudes to wolves became more negative or did not improve when protections for wolves were reduced
  • Poaching was higher when wolf protections were reduced, measured by individual survival rates 
  • Poaching was higher when wolf protections were reduced, measured by wolf population dynamics 


A federal district court struck down a 2020 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in February that removed federal protections from gray wolves across much of the U.S. In Oregon, that ruling only covered wolves west of Highway 395. Wolves east of Highway 395 lack federal protections and state Endangered Species Protections since the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission removed them in 2015.

Contact for more information:

Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity
Jackson Chiappinelli, Earthjustice
Mark Morgenstein, Environment America
Andrew Scibetta, NRDC
Ian Brickey, Sierra Club
Zack Porter, Standing Trees
Adam Rissien, WildEarth Guardians 

More than 120,000 people and more than 170 organizations called on the U.S. Forest Service to strengthen its proposal to conserve old growth trees and forests on federal land. During a public comment period that closed on Friday, people asked for stronger provisions that eliminate commercial logging of old-growth trees and tighten other exceptions to ensure these trees stay in the forest. The comment period opened in December when the Forest Service proposed the first nationwide amendment to improve safeguards for old-growth forests. The proposal came in response to more than 500,000 comments submitted last summer urging swift and durable action to protect mature and old-growth forests. 

The draft proposal sets ambitious goals for managing and expanding old growth in national forests, but contains major gaps that will hinder achievement of these goals. Notably, the proposal would still let old growth get sent to the mill. And it carves out the Tongass National Forest—our largest old growth national forest—from protection. The proposal also does not offer protections for mature trees and forests, which if not logged, will eventually become old-growth. Protecting mature forests is essential for ensuring old-growth that was lost to past logging is recovered. Many national forests, especially in the eastern United States, have little old-growth remaining.

Protecting older trees is a critical, cost-effective solution to address both the climate and biodiversity crises. Old-growth forests are more resilient than younger forests but unfortunately, the vast majority of old-growth forests in the U.S. have already been logged. Those that are left are largely on federally managed public lands. The Forest Service has approved numerous logging projects across hundreds of thousands of acres that target mature and old-growth trees, which store vast amounts of carbon. 

The Climate Forests Campaign is a coalition of more than 120 organizations nationwide that advocates to protect the trees that serve as the greatest buffers against climate change. 

Members of the coalition, including Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Environment America, Earthjustice, Oregon Wild, Standing Trees and WildEarth Guardians, issued the following statement:

“We support the Forest Service’s goal to better protect and expand our old growth forests. The Biden administration recognizes the critical role these forests play in addressing the climate and wildlife extinction crises and must ensure the Forest Service prioritizes protection over commercial revenue.

“The Forest Service’s proposed plan sets important goals, and needs improvements to fulfill the vision of strong and durable protections for these climate-critical forests. The agency should listen to the clear public input calling for strong protections for both mature and old-growth trees and forests and a complete end to commercial logging of old-growth trees on federal land. 

“We further urge the agency to remove the proposed exception for the Tongass National Forest, the crown jewel of our national forest system. The Tongass, like all of our old-growth and mature forests, is more valuable for absorbing carbon and providing habitat for hundreds of species than it is for timber.

“We commend the Biden administration for initiating this process, and we will continue our work to demonstrate public support for protections that ensure that mature and old-growth forests can continue to store carbon, provide clean water, and support wildlife for generations to come.”

Contact for more information:

Lindsey Hutchison, Willamette Riverkeeper
Peter Jensen, Cascadia Wildlands
John Persell, Oregon Wild

In response to legal pressure, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  withdrew the proposed 4,600-acre Big League logging project in the Calapooia and Mohawk River Watersheds northeast of Eugene.

In November, conservation organizations Willamette Riverkeeper, Cascadia Wildlands, and Oregon Wild challenged the the agency’s failure to take the required “hard look” at the project’s impacts on a host of environmental values, including spotted owl habitat, carbon storage, stream flows, and water quality. Specifically, the proposal authorized clearcut logging of the last and highest quality older forest stands in the Calapooia and Mohawk River Watersheds on already fragmented public lands.

Download photos for press use.

Of particular concern, the agency failed to fully analyze the effects of logging and road construction activities on Upper Willamette River spring Chinook salmon, which are protected as a “threatened” species by the federal Endangered Species Act. According to a 2011 analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), these salmon are at a “very high risk” of extinction and logging units within the Big League Project directly abut the species’ critical habitat in the Calapooia River.

In response to the lawsuit, the agency agreed not to move forward with logging in the project area unless the agency completes a robust public process, including further National Environmental Policy Act analysis, public comment, and Endangered Species Act consultation for Upper Willamette spring Chinook salmon. In response to these commitments, the conservation groups dismissed their legal challenge.

The Big League Project is some of the last intact, older forest surrounded by private lands clearcuts

“While we are pleased that the Bureau of Land Management has opted to shelve the Big League Project,” said Peter Jensen, legal fellow with Cascadia Wildlands, “thoughtful and thorough consideration of environmental impacts and imperiled species must come far earlier in the planning process as a matter of agency priority, not legal reactivity.”

“It is unfortunate that the Bureau of Land Management is only willing to engage in critical and required environmental analysis after the agency has been challenged in court,” said Lindsey Hutchison of Willamette Riverkeeper. “It should not take a lawsuit to convince the BLM to follow the law.”

“We can all breathe a sigh of relief that, for now, these older stands can continue to grow and provide carbon storage to combat climate change and fish and wildlife habitat,” said John Persell of Oregon Wild. “Still, we will be tracking the BLM’s future actions in these watersheds closely to make sure the agency doesn’t try another end-run around bedrock environmental laws.”


Willamette Riverkeeper is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1996 with thousands of members in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Willamette Riverkeeper focuses on protecting and restoring the resources of the Willamette River Basin in Oregon and works on programs and projects ranging from the Clean Water Act compliance and river education to Superfund cleanup and restoring habitat.

Oregon Wild represents 20,000 members and supporters who share our mission to protect and restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and water as an enduring legacy. Our goal is to protect areas that remain intact while striving to restore areas that have been degraded.

Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands is a 501c3 non-profit with over 12,000 members and supporters whose mission is to defend and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, a stable climate, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.  

Contact for more information

Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity
Jackson Chiappinelli, Earthjustice
Mark Morgenstein, Environment America
Josh Mogerman, NRDC
Ian Brickey, Sierra Club 
Zack Porter, Standing Trees
Hannah Smay, WildEarth Guardians

According to reports, the Biden administration will announce Tuesday a proposed nationwide forest plan amendment to advance protections for the last remaining old-growth trees in U.S. national forests. President Joe Biden has said these trees are critical components of the nation’s fight against the climate and extinction crises. The proposal, if adopted, would add new restrictions on logging and is a step toward fulfilling the promise of the president’s April 2022 Executive Order, which directs the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to address threats to mature and old-growth forests on federal lands as a natural climate solution and develop policies to conserve them. 

Members of the Climate Forests Campaign, a coalition of more than 120 organizations working to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal land, welcomed the announcement as an important step forward while urging the Forest Service to pursue steps to protect mature trees. Both old-growth and mature forests are essential to removing climate-warming carbon pollution from the air and storing it, safeguarding wildlife, and providing clean drinking water for our communities. 

The vast majority of old-growth forests have already been logged. Most that are left are largely on federally-managed public lands. As of November 2022, the Climate Forests Campaign had identified numerous timber sales targeting at least 370,000 acres of mature and old-growth forests for logging on federal land. 

In addition to storing huge amounts of carbon and keeping it out of the atmosphere, mature and old-growth forests also provide essential wildlife habitats and are the most fire-resilient trees in the forest. As the world experiences record-shattering heat and widespread climate disasters, protecting these forests is critical to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal in a public comment period.  

In response, environmental advocates issued the following statements:

“Protecting our old growth trees from logging is an important first step to ensure these giants continue to store vast amounts of carbon, but other older forests also need protection,” said Randi Spivak, public lands policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “To fulfill President Biden’s executive order and address the magnitude of the climate crisis, the Forest Service also needs to protect our mature forests, which if allowed to grow will become the old-growth of tomorrow.” 

“The Biden administration’s proposed plan to protect old-growth trees across the country is an important milestone for forest conservation and U.S. progress in addressing the climate crisis,” said Earthjustice senior legislative representative Blaine Miller-McFeeley. “Even as it works to complete this proposal, the Forest Service must take steps to fulfill President Biden’s executive order by also developing protections for mature trees, which are our future old-growth and exist in much greater numbers than old-growth, storing vast amounts of carbon. We look forward to working with the Forest Service to help it safeguard mature and old-growth forests. Conservation of these forests goes hand in hand with addressing the threat of wildfires as older and larger trees tend to be the most fire-resistant.” 

“Americans love our forests. They’re natural playgrounds for people and wildlife alike. That’s why more than half a million people this summer asked the Forest Service to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests,” said Ellen Montgomery, Public Lands Campaign Director with Environment America. “Our mature and old-growth trees provide critical wildlife habitats, filter drinking water for communities and absorb and store tons of carbon. We’re really pleased that the Forest Service has taken this unprecedented step and we urge them to take actions to protect mature forests. To have a future where we have more old-growth, not less, it is critical to protect mature forests as well.”

“The Administration has rightly recognized that protecting America’s mature and old-growth trees and forests must be a core part of America’s conservation vision and playbook to combat the climate crisis,” said Garett Rose, senior attorney at NRDC. “This announcement is an important step toward meeting these goals. The Forest Service should move forward to develop the strongest possible safeguards for these forests.”

“Oregon Wild has been working to protect old-growth forests for 50 years. With today’s action, President Biden is taking a major step forward in protecting these national treasures,” said Lauren Anderson, Climate Forest Program Manager with Oregon Wild. “We look forward to working with his administration to implement this policy, and to ensure that mature and old-growth forests across the country are protected.”

“Our ancient forests are some of the most powerful resources we have for taking on the climate crisis and preserving ecosystems,” said Sierra Club Forests Campaign Manager Alex Craven. “We are pleased to see that the Biden administration continues to embrace forest conservation as the critical opportunity that it is. This amendment is a meaningful step towards averting climate catastrophe, safeguarding vulnerable ecosystems, and fulfilling President Biden’s commitment to preserve old-growth and mature trees across federal lands.” 

“We applaud the Biden Administration for taking a significant step towards increasing protections for our nation’s endangered old-growth forests,” said Zack Porter, Executive Director of Standing Trees, an organization that works to protect and restore public lands in the six-state New England region. “But the reality is that more than 99.9% of old-growth forests in New England have already been cut down. For the climate and biodiversity, the Forest Service must put an end to destructive mature forest logging that prevents the recovery and expansion of old-growth forests across the US. We are buoyed by today’s announcement, and remain optimistic that the Forest Service will take further action to secure protections for America’s future old-growth forests.”

“Mature and old- growth forests are an essential component of a broader climate-crisis solution – but only if we protect them from logging,” said Adam Rissien, Rewilding Manager with WildEarth Guardians.  “Today’s announcement by the Forest Service establishes necessary and long-overdue protections for old growth forests, limiting when they can be cut and sold commercially. Taking the next step and developing a national rule covering both mature and old-growth would deliver on the Biden administration’s commitment to protect these trees once and for all.”

Contact for more information

Steve Pedery, Conservation Director

Today, the Forest Service took the first official step in its long-rumored effort to amend the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.

Oregon Wild Conservation Director Steve Pedery:

The visionary Northwest Forest Plan was intended to protect and restore mature and old-growth forests and imperiled salmon and wildlife on federal public lands in the Pacific Northwest.  It was the first landscape-level ecosystem protection plan adopted anywhere in the world and remains an international model for conservation. The plan has had enormous benefits for clean water, salmon, and wildlife because of its protected reserve system. These reserves, with their general prohibition on logging forests over 80 years old, have allowed many areas to recover from the epidemic of old-growth clearcutting that ravaged the region in the 1970s and 1980s.

The announcement today comes just a few days after the end of the COP 28 climate conference in Dubai, where nations from around the globe spoke to the urgent need to pursue climate and carbon solutions–including the protection of mature and old-growth forests.  Unfortunately, the document the Forest Service released today is dangerously vague about its goals when it comes to carbon and logging. While it rightly acknowledges President Biden’s Executive Order 14072 on forests and climate change and speaks extensively about the risks climate change poses to forests, the agency ignores the EO’s related direction to retain and enhance carbon storage as a natural climate solution. While we applaud the document’s acknowledgment of the need to better consult tribal communities and protect tribal treaty rights, it mostly ignores the Northwest Forest Plan’s importance for ecosystem services such as salmon and clean drinking water.

In the coming months, it will be very important that conservation groups, tribes, scientists, and concerned citizens work together to ensure that the Forest Service does not weaken protections for our mature and old-growth forests, clean water, wildlife, and climate here in the Pacific Northwest. The Biden administration has given the Forest Service clear direction about the need to recover mature and old-growth forests as a natural climate and carbon solution. Through grassroots activism, public education, policy advocacy, and the courts, we need to work hard to ensure that direction is followed, and to ensure that the Forest Service adopts strong protections for mature and old-growth forests all across the country.

Join Our

Staying informed is the first step to becoming a public lands and native wildlife advocate.

Skip to content