The Missing Link in Biden’s Climate Agenda: Letting Older Trees Grow

Environmental organizations call for a new national forest policy that protects old-growth and matu

Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity,, (310) 779-4894
Becca Bowe, Earthjustice,, (415) 217-2093
Ellen Montgomery, Environment America Public Lands Campaign Director,, (720) 583-4024
Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 329-1463
Steve Pedery (he/him), Oregon Wild,, (503) 998-8411 
Medhini Kumar, Sierra Club,, (303) 918-4282
Zack Porter, Standing Trees,, (617) 872-5352
Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph. D, Wild Heritage,, (541) 621-7223

WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, a coalition of more than 70 groups launched a new campaign called the Climate Forests Campaign, calling on the Biden administration to take executive action to protect mature trees and forests on federal lands, which are critical in the fight against climate change. This comes just a year after President Joe Biden signed an executive order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which set out a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by 2050 and to work with partners internationally to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.

“In his first year in office, President Biden announced bold plans to prioritize conserving forests as a tool against the climate and biodiversity crises,” said Kirin Kennedy, Director, People and Nature Policy at Sierra Club. “By making protections for mature and old-growth trees and forests across America's public lands a cornerstone of US climate policy, he can fulfill this promise and set an example for the world.” 

Members of the coalition include Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Environment America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Standing Trees, Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Wild Heritage.

This month marks the 117th anniversary of the US Forest Service. For more than a century, the agency has focused much of its resources on logging and timber sales. The campaign is calling on the Biden administration to kick off a new era of climate and forest policy that values trees and forests as key pieces of the climate solution. 

Forests—particularly older forests—store vast amounts of carbon and continue absorbing carbon as they age. Logging trees in these areas releases most of that carbon back into the atmosphere. Even under the best-case scenario, newly planted forests would not re-absorb this carbon for decades or centuries – timescales irrelevant to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Older trees and forests are also naturally more fire resistant. And they help limit the impacts of climate change by slowing soil erosion and moderating temperatures. 

“We need to protect more of our forests across the globe to fend off the impending biodiversity and climate crises,” said Ellen Montgomery, Environment America Public Lands Campaign Director. “This campaign calls for the Biden administration to take the first step toward meaningful safeguards for forests in the US – by protecting the most important standing trees in those forests. We can no longer allow our forests to be logged to the detriment of biodiversity and the climate crisis. It’s time to adopt a new policy: Let these trees grow.”

Carbon-absorbing older forests are also the best habitat for thousands of species of wildlife, including spotted owls, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and pine martens.

The last comprehensive federal policy to protect national forests, the Roadless Rule, was enacted in 2001 under President Bill Clinton. The Rule was adopted to protect nearly 60 million acres of designated “roadless areas” from logging and road-building, safeguarding significant stands of remaining old growth. Though these areas act as a critical carbon sink, many older trees on federal land lie outside of roadless areas. Scientists and environmental groups say we have to get all our public forests into the climate fight, and do it now.

"Older forests on federal lands drawdown massive amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, serving as a natural climate solution” said Dr. Dominick DellaSala, Wild Heritage Chief Scientist. “The science is clear-cut, we cannot get out of the climate and biodiversity global emergencies without protecting these vestiges of our natural biological inheritance. Doing so would position the US as a global leader that is serious about the president's pledge at the COP 26 climate summit to end global forest losses whether in the Amazon or here at home."

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit