Crag Law Center has worked since our founding to protect the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. These stands provide critical habitat for wildlife, watershed protection, and carbon storage critical to a stable climate.

A new study shows that old growth trees and forest soils continue to actively capture and store carbon over time. The remaining old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest and those found in Canada and Russia provide up to 20 percent of the global terrestrial carbon sink. Our older forests remain an important part of the battle to combat climate change, and so scientists are telling us that it is critical that we protect these areas from deforestation.

But what happens when these forests burn? This summer’s Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge tore at the heartstrings of many in our region. Now is a good time to remember that fire is an elemental and critical force of nature. While there will always be places where humans cannot tolerate fire, many plant and wildlife species depend on fire to create habitat. Drought and wind, not fuels accumulation, are the primary drivers of big fires. With Pacific Northwest summers getting hotter and experiencing longer periods of drought, we are seeing an increase in big fires. Climatic changes further heighten the need for us to protect the remaining wild, old growth forests here in the Pacific Northwest.

Unfortunately, some of our politicians see fire as an opportunity to increase logging of our wild forests. While the Eagle Creek fire was burning, Congressman Greg Walden introduced legislation (H.R. 3715) that would authorize post-fire logging in areas impacted by the fire within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. If passed, H.R. 3715 would require the Forest Service to expedite plans to log the Gorge and limit access to justice for the local communities that would be hurt by these plans. Crag is working to find solutions to support communities impacted by fire while allowing the forest to naturally recover from these dramatic events.

We urge you to take the time to send a letter telling our members of Congress what you think of this plan!