Partisan split emerges on Biden old-growth forest plans

By Marc Heller | 03/25/2024 01:33 PM EDT

Democrats in Congress urged stronger protections, while Republicans questioned the merits of barring logging in the nation’s oldest forests.

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

Democrats and Republicans in Congress pushed polar opposites to the Biden administration for how to manage national forests: curtail logging in mature and old forests or quit trying to rein in the practice.

The competing messages came in letters from lawmakers to the Department of Agriculture, which is moving toward new protections for old-growth areas in the national forest system but leaving largely unanswered what to do with “mature” forests that could age into old growth in the decades ahead.

Democrats last week were circulating among themselves a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praising the administration’s direction in a nationwide forest plan amendment but urging bolder moves on national forest areas that haven’t quite achieved the USDA’s definition of old growth.


“The future of our old growth forests depends on the recruitment of new old-growth, but at present, the guidance in the proposed amendment for recruiting future old-growth is effectively unenforceable,” lawmakers said in a draft of the yet-to-be-signed letter reviewed by E&E News.