Our goals for US forests - overview
US forests contain large amounts of carbon. If properly managed, they can hold onto this carbon for a long time and sequester even more carbon out of the atmosphere, easing the climate crisis. If improperly managed, though, they can release large amounts of carbon and sequester little, making the crisis worse. The Forest Carbon Coalition is working to transform the management of federal, state, and private forestlands so they capture and store as much carbon as possible. In particular, we are working to:
- Protect public forestlands throughout the US as forest carbon reserves. This means phasing out commercial resource extraction activities that deplete forest carbon stocks, generate greenhouse gas emissions, reduce carbon sequestration capacity, and make the landscape more vulnerable to climate change. It also means restoring damaged lands and managing all forestlands to replenish depleted forest carbon stocks to their natural levels.
- Replace carbon-intensive forest practices on state and private lands with climate smart alternatives. This can be accomplished by modernizing forest practices laws to require climate smart practices and by reserving grants, technical assistance and other subsidies for good actors who maintain healthy forest cover on their lands and prioritize carbon storage.
- Amend environmental assessment procedures to require a climate test for all forest projects. Federal, state and local public agencies would not authorize forest projects unless the test is passed. To pass the climate test, projects must (1) lead to a reduction in atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations; (2) increase carbon sequestration capacity; (3) rebuild forest carbon stocks, and (4) improve the ability of US forestlands to withstand predicted increases in drought, wildfires, storms, floods, harmful algae blooms, and outbreaks of insects and disease.
US forest carbon agenda for 2020 and beyond
In 2016, the FCC prepared a comprehensive set of management practices, administrative rules, and policies to reorient federal forest management agencies to emphasize the role that forests must play in addressing the climate crisis. Our approach incorporates these general principles:
- Fully account for the impacts on forest carbon in all forest decision-making processes and documents (forest plans, environmental statements, etc.).
- Complete comprehensive, transparent analysis of the social costs of carbon in all planning and decision-making.
- Maximize tree growth and undertake thinning or commercial logging only if life-cycle analysis clearly shows the benefits would outweigh the costs.
- Minimize the burning or removal of dead wood unless analysis clearly shows the benefits would outweigh the costs.
- Increase reforestation, particularly on lands that once held forest.
- Ensure that forests continue as part of climate solutions by building resilience to climate change and other disturbances.
- Develop accounting, verification, and monitoring systems to ensure that forest stores will be managed as intended.
- Adopt clear policies and take meaningful action now so that U.S. forests contribute in all ways possible to preventing runaway climate change.
Based on these principles, the FCC’s has developed 17 forest-management recommendations emphasize conserving—which now apply to all US forestlands. These recommendations reflect the findings of the best available science regarding the steps the US must take to accomplish the goals fo the Paris Agreement and prepare the nation’s forests for the impacts of changes in climate that have already occurred and those anticipated for the future. We intend to amend our recommendations, as appropriate, in response to future research findings.
Our recommendations constitute the core of an agenda that has three points of emphasis:
- Conserve carbon already stored in forests while also increasing carbon sequestration.
- Build forests’ resilience to climate change-related disturbances.
- Generate social, economic, and ecological co-benefits consistent with the other goals.
We intend to apply this agenda to bring about meaningful, climate-smart changes in forest-management policies through legislative and administrative initiatives in Congress, state legislatures, and the agencies that oversee forest management.