Defining “old growth” on a landscape periodically reshaped by fire is tough enough, but doing so for the country as a whole really gets interesting . . .
Last spring, President Joe Biden surprised forest scientists when he ordered the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to inventory their holdings of mature and old-growth forests by Earth Day 2023. The order triggered a scramble for the United States to, for the first time, formally define what constitutes “mature” and “old-growth” forests and to apply those definitions across millions of hectares of land.
Now, the agencies have delivered their findings: Of the nearly 72 million hectares of forest managed by the two agencies, 45% are mature and 18% are old growth, according to a report released last week. The figures far exceed previous estimates published by nonfederal researchers and are likely to add fuel to an already raging debate about how to manage older forests and make them resilient to climate change.
The government’s tally has drawn a divided response…