Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall Gala, Forests, and Carbon Storage

Thank you for coming to our Fall Gala to celebrate the incredible work that together we achieve, and the spectacular area that we call home. The food, music and company were wonderful. In addition we had a highly renowned speaker, Jim Martin, whose accomplishments are remarkable. Jim’s energy and call for us to get involved in the tough issues, “the center of the swirl,” was very inspirational. I want to touch on why HCPC’s work is so important in light of current and impending climate change.

Forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle and HCPC’s work influences millions of acres of forests across eastern Oregon. Through photosynthesis forests “fix” atmospheric carbon into biomass, and thus remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. U.S. forests currently offset about 12-19% of total U.S. fossil fuel emissions (see Ryan et al. 2010, Issues In Ecology: Through removal and storage of large amounts of atmospheric carbon, forests, such as the old growth hemlock stand in the Wallowa Mountains pictured above, are partially buffering us from increased warming of the climate system.

Old growth forest that HCPC recently saved from commercial logging in the Sugar Timber Sale, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision covers over 5 million acres of National Forest lands and will guide forest management activities for at least two decades. HCPC’s comments on the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision will result in the only alternative that explicitly maps out and protects old growth forests from commercial logging, thereby eliminating the heavy ground disturbance that results from the industrial logging machinery. This would protect the large stores of carbon in both the above- and belowground carbon pools. This is one example of how we are advocating for forest management on our National Forests that recognizes that climate change is one of the greatest threats to future generations.

As Jim’s talk reminded us, forests can only do so much. Without substantial reductions of our own greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. atmospheric pollution), we will simply overwhelm the climate benefit of forests and potentially shift forests to huge sources of greenhouse gases. We don't want to go there.

posted by David Mildrexler, Ecosystem Conservation Coordinator

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