Biden Earth Day action targets protecting old-growth forests from wildfires, climate change

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden marked Earth Day in Seattle on Friday by announcing new steps to make the nation’s forests more resilient against the threat of wildfires and climate change.

Using a city park with 300 acres of forest land as his backdrop, Biden signed an executive order that seeks to protect some of the nation’s largest and more mature trees, strengthen reforestation efforts and fight global deforestation.

"With this executive order on Earth Day, we're also showing this moment of maximum threat and urgency can also be a moment of enormous hope and enormous opportunity," Biden said in Seattle's Seward Park.

Biden also called on Congress to pass his stalled Build Back Better legislation, which includes more than $500 million to address environmental issues.

"My pen's ready," he said. "I'm anxious to sign it. Get some of these bills to my desk."

The order Biden signed Friday calls for the government to undertake the first-ever inventory of mature and old-growth forests on federal land.

Scientists say mature and old-growth forests remove carbon pollution from the atmosphere, yet many older forests are threatened by wildfires and climate change.

Data from the inventory, which must be completed within a year, will be used to analyze threats facing American forests. The inventory will serve as the foundation for new policies on management and conservation strategies.

"Our forests are our planet's lungs," Biden said. "They literally are recycling and cycling CO2 out of the atmosphere."

President Joe Biden marked Earth Day in Seward Park in Seattle on Friday by ordering protections for the U.S.'s ancient forests, seen as a crucial weapon in the fight against climate change.

Biden has set a goal of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The order he signed Friday will require federal agencies to set targets for reforestation and prepare reports on how the government can stop global deforestation.

A major driver of global deforestation is forest clearing to produce agricultural commodities like beef, soy, and palm oil. Biden's order tasks the State Department with looking for ways the government can reduce or eliminate purchases of agricultural commodities grown on illegally or recently deforested lands.

That will not only protect forests and human rights abroad, the Biden administration argues, but also will provide a level playing field for responsible agricultural producers at home.

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.

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