Climate and wildfire top logging as risks to old-growth forests

By Marc Heller | 06/14/2024 01:26 PM EDT

The Forest Service said that timber harvest is a small threat to mature and old-growth forests, compared to heat, drought and disease.

Old-growth Douglas fir trees.

Old-growth Douglas fir trees stand along the Salmon River Trail in Mount Hood National Forest outside Zigzag, Oregon. Rick Bowmer/AP

The mounting effects of climate change are much bigger threats on federally managed lands than logging, the Forest Service said in an updated analysis of mature and old-growth forests.

In the report released Friday, the Forest Service said the greatest negative impacts of timber harvesting are decades in the past and that wildfire driven by the warming climate is now the main threat to the forest areas the Biden administration is looking to protect.

“Tree cutting (any removal of trees) is currently a relatively minor threat despite having been a major disturbance historically, as from 1950 to 1990 these were the primary reason for loss of old growth forest,” the agency said in the report.


The updated analysis is part of the Biden administration’s effort to inventory and ultimately take a new management approach to mature and old-growth forests, as well as to more closely define those terms.