Over 50 Northwestern US Groups Unveil Green New Deal Vision for Area’s Vital Forests
More than 50 conservation and climate justice organizations in northern California, Oregon and Washington on Wednesday called on policymakers to preserve the region’s tens of millions of acres of forest land by adopting a Green New Deal for the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a plan consisting of six pillars. aimed at guarding against destructive forest fires while mitigating the climate emergency.
“Forest lands in the Pacific Northwest can become essential for extracting carbon from the atmosphere and defending against the worst impacts of climate change, while supporting local economies and rural communities that depend on forest lands. “—50+ conservation groups
“The forests of the Pacific Northwest have the potential to absorb and store as much if not more carbon per acre than any other forest in the world, including the Amazon rainforest,” the organizations said (pdf), calling for a transformation of the forestry industry in accordance with the requirements of the Green New Deal legislation originally introduced in 2019 by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
Greenpeace USA, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and several locals of the Sunrise Movement are among the groups calling for a just transition away from the forest industry, the main source of carbon emissions in the state of Oregon, a direct cause of the worsening impacts of forest fires; and an industry that has left less than 20% of the region’s forests untapped.
“Forest lands in the Pacific Northwest can become essential for extracting carbon from the atmosphere and defending against the worst impacts of climate change, while supporting local economies and rural communities that depend on forest lands,” said declared the groups.
“The forests of the Pacific Northwest are a world-class natural climate solution,” said local conservation group Cascadia Wildlands. “It’s time we started treating them as such.”
Countering claims by opponents of the Green New Deal, the groups’ plan stressed that abandoning industrial logging is far from a job killer.
As logging companies have maximized their profits and reduced operating costs to the detriment of workers and the rural communities in which they operate, the groups noted that a Green New Deal for Northwestern Forests would secure unionized jobs. in many areas, including outdoor education, road and infrastructure repair, and ecological fire management.
“Hundreds of climatologists and environmentalists are telling policymakers that logging is a major source of carbon emissions and that we need to do more to protect our forests so that they can reduce atmospheric carbon,” said the Dr Chad Hanson, director and senior ecologist of the John Muir Project at the Earth Island Institute. “This goes hand in hand with a just transition, because we know that the true prosperity of rural communities is mainly linked to the protection of forests, not to degradation and exploitation.”
The proposal demonstrates that “there is no reason rural communities should have to choose between prioritizing forest ecosystems or having a robust economy – we can have both,” the organizations said.
The six pillars of the Green New Deal for the forests of the Pacific Northwest are:
- Use the potential of the forests of the Pacific Northwest as a climate solution by shifting to practices that sequester and store carbon, including “implementing new guidelines and incentives for landowners to practice pro-afforestation.” . [and conserving] old and untapped forests for climate change mitigation ”;
- Transform industrial forestry practices on private lands by ending subsidies and tax breaks for private landowners and logging companies, investing instead in rural education, infrastructure and other non-forestry jobs;
- Empower frontline and marginalized communities by ensuring that “tribes, migrants and rural communities benefit from stronger legal protections, economic opportunities, safe working conditions and community services independent of business or logging revenues ”and that“ Indigenous sacred and cultural sites on federal public lands are fully protected and accessible to Indigenous peoples for cultural practices ”;
- Raise the standard of living of forest-dependent communities through a federal employment guarantee;
- Invest in communities by redirecting forestry subsidies towards protecting ecosystems and repairing past damage by industry and by injecting funds into rural infrastructure, including broadband and transport; and
- Act on the best available science by explicitly rejecting “false solutions peddled by the extractive industry”, including uncontrolled logging.
“If done right, a Green New Deal will simultaneously alleviate the climate crisis, transform our national (and global) economy, tackle issues of social, racial, economic and environmental injustice, protect natural ecosystems and create millions of well-paying union jobs, “the plan says.” To do this, we must demand bold vision from leaders at both community and national level; a desire to truly reinvent all aspects of our economy to create a society based on the principles of solidarity and ecology instead of competition and extraction. “
“By reinventing our relationship with the forests of the Pacific Northwest, we can not only alleviate the climate crisis, but also build a future for our region based on economic, racial and environmental justice. “—Green New Deal for Pacific Northwest Forests
In addition to supporting community economies, the Green New Deal for Pacific Northwest Forests would protect millions of people in rural communities by reducing the risk and severity of wildfires, which have destroyed 10.3 million. unprecedented acres in 2020.
“The climate crisis, which is in part due to industrial logging, increases the risk and severity of forest fires,” the organizations said. “Industrial logging also directly increases the impacts of forest fires due to the resulting monoculture tree plantations, which allow fires to burn more severely and spread faster. On the other hand, forests with a higher degree of protection have a lower risk of forest fires. “
Michael Beasely, fire behavior analyst and retired fire chief in California’s Inyo National Forest, said the plan would allow “disadvantaged workers to be true heroes in the eyes of rural communities as they go. reduce fuel consumption near homes and infrastructure where it matters most, in the home ignition zone. “
“In turn, forests can be allowed to perform the full range of ecosystem services, sequestering carbon and clean water, most importantly, while allowing the rewilding of more remote areas, with ecosystem processes intact. like natural fires, ”Stupidly said.
Adopting a Green New Deal for the forests of the Pacific Northwest would allow the region to meet the bold emission reduction targets needed to alleviate the climate emergency while centering a just transition for workers and workers. communities, the organizations said, stressing that “we don’t have to wait for any new technological advancement or large-scale investment in facilities to do this. “
“The means to remove significant amounts of carbon already exist in the woodlands of our country,” says the plan. “By reinventing our relationship with the forests of the Pacific Northwest, we can not only alleviate the climate crisis, but also build a future for our region based on economic, racial and environmental justice. “