The decision by the U.S. Forest Service to allow the harvesting of trees on 11,000 acres of the Green Mountain National Forest—thereby expanding an existing federal approval of logging across 43,000 acres of the GMNF—has sparked outcry among a variety of climate activists and environmental groups who hold that mature forests play a crucial role in sequestering carbon dioxide that causes global warming. The tree-harvest expansion comes on the heels of a recently released Harvard report that estimates that trees in New England currently absorb about 27 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, amounting to about 14 percent of the region’s overall carbon emissions in 2020. The report goes on to say that the region’s forests can do even more to buffer climate change if they are expanded.
The counterargument by Forest Service officials and private timber companies is that logging remains vital to the local economy and regenerates ecosystems that rely on young, more diverse forest habitat. Limited logging, they say, enables clear-cuts to be replaced with a more diverse range of trees, thereby creating suitable habitat for a wider range of wildlife. Further, areas of young forest should make the GMNF as a whole more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including increased risk of wildfires, drought, and the spread of invasive pests. Pro-logging advocates also point out that the areas where logging has been approved represent around 10 percent of the GMNF, which spans 416,000 acres.