The Bureau of Land Management and the USDA Forest Service invite public comment on definitions and other aspects of old-growth and mature forests

REMARK: The comment period has been extended to August 30, 2022. Please see the Federal Register Notice for more information.

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, on behalf of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, solicit public comments on developing a framework for defining old-growth and mature forests on federally managed lands. This work will help inform how 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 public, private, and government land managers, the natural resource science community, and individuals and organizations from a wide range of focused interests on this important issue,” said said Forest Service Chief Randy. Moore. “Old and mature forests are a key component of healthy ecosystems. Synthesizing information on ancient forests at the national scale is an essential first step to informing other scientific questions and future management actions.

Specifically, the Federal Register notice published today seeks comment on the following issues:

  • What criteria are needed for a universal definitional framework that motivates the conservation of mature and old-growth forests and that can be used for planning and adaptive management?
  • What are the overall characteristics of old-growth and mature forests that belong to a definitional framework?
  • How can a definition reflect disturbance-based changes and variations in forest type/composition, climate, site productivity and geographic region?
  • How can a definition be sustainable while taking into account and reflecting climate change and forest composition?
  • What forest features, if any, should a definition exclude?

The Forest Service will provide a live briefing 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, directs the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to jointly define, identify, and complete within one year an inventory of old and mature forests on lands managed by the forest service and the office of land management. The order also provides for the publication of an inventory of old and mature forests on these lands, taking into account regional and ecological variations, where applicable.

This work and subsequent work on old-growth and mature forests also supports the USDA’s 10-Year Strategy, Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A New Strategy to Protect Communities and Improve the Resilience of America’s Forests.