Climate Change & Forest Management

When the Mt. Hood Land and Resource Management Plan was written in the late 1900s, no one thought to consider the potential impacts of an increasingly warmer and unstable climate or the ways that forest ecosystems influence local and global mitigating climate change. Not even the highly acclaimed 1994 Northwest Forest Plan set out goals and guidelines for protecting climate resilience in some of the most carbon-dense forests on the planet.

The impacts of climate change on Mt. Hood’s forest, waters, and wildlife are likely to include more rain and less snow in the winter, an increase in stream temperatures, flooding, and landslide events. The forest’s ability to successfully adapt to these changes will be determined by the health of its ecosystem as a whole. That’s why we need a new forest management plan that emphasizes natural and restoration over activities such as logging that destroy essential habitats and reduce the forest’s resilience.

A 21st century forest management plan needs to recognize the relationship of forests and climate change, rather than treating the forest primarily as a timber source.

Mt. Hood National Forest is one of the top 10 carbon-storing forests in the U.S. Its trees capture and store immense quantities of carbon dioxide, preventing it from entering the atmosphere and accelerating global warming. This benefit is lost when those trees are cut down. Not surprisingly, a groundbreaking study by Oregon State University shows that Oregon’s logging industry releases far more carbon into the atmosphere than any other industry in the state.

With the climate change crisis becoming more urgent, it’s time for a new Mt. Hood Land and Resource Management Plan that focuses on strengthening the forest to withstand ecosystem impacts and protecting the mature forests that sequester huge amounts of carbon.