BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials on Thursday solicited outside help as they craft definitions of old growth and mature forests under an executive order from President Joe Biden.
The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management issued a notice seeking public input for a “universal definition framework” to identify older forests needing protection.
Biden in April directed his administration to devise ways to preserve older forests as part of the government's efforts to combat climate change. Older trees release large volumes of global warming carbon when they burn.
Biden’s order called for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management over the next year to define and inventory all mature and old growth forests on federal land. After that, the agencies must identify the biggest threats those forests face and come up with ways to save them.
There's disagreement over which trees to count. Environmentalists have said millions of acres of public lands should qualify. The timber industry and its allies have cautioned against a broad definition over concerns that could put new areas off limits to logging.
The Forest Service manages 209,000 square miles (541,000 square kilometers) of forested land, including about 87,500 square miles (226,000 square kilometers) where trees are older than 100 years.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees about 90,600 square miles (233,000 square kilometers) of forests.