WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, on behalf of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, are seeking public comments on the development of a definition framework for old-growth and mature forests on federally managed lands. This work will help inform how the departments respond to President Biden’s Executive Order 14072, Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities and Local Economies.

“The Forest Service looks forward to playing a role in convening the public, private and government land managers, the natural resources science community, and people and organizations across a broad spectrum with a focused interest on this important issue,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Old-growth and mature forests are a key component to healthy ecosystems. Synthesizing old-growth forest information on a national scale is a critical first step to informing further science questions and future management actions.”

Specifically, the Federal Register Notice published today seeks comments on the following questions: 

  • What criteria are needed for a universal definition framework that motivates mature and old-growth forest conservation and can be used for planning and adaptive management?
  • What are the overarching old-growth and mature forest characteristics that belong in a definition framework?
  • How can a definition reflect changes based on disturbance and variation in forest type/composition, climate, site productivity and geographic region?
  • How can a definition be durable but also accommodate and reflect changes in climate and forest composition?
  • What, if any, forest characteristics should a definition exclude?

The Forest Service will offer a live informational session that will be recorded and posted on the agency’s website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/old-growth-forests.

Executive Order 14072, issued in April, tasks the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to jointly define, identify and complete an inventory within one year of old-growth and mature forests on lands managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The order also calls for the publication of an inventory of old-growth and mature forests on these lands, accounting for regional and ecological variations, as appropriate. 

This and subsequent work on old-growth and mature forests also supports USDA’s 10-year strategy, Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A New Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests. 

By AKDSEO