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June 17, 2021

With Forest Service Chief, Senator King Stresses Carbon-Removing Benefits of Working Forests

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today emphasized the carbon sequestration benefits created by working forests during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. During the hearing to discuss the fiscal year 2022 U.S. Forest Service budget, King questioned Victoria Christiansen, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, on the increased impact of growing forests versus mature forests in sequestering atmospheric carbon. Specifically, Senator King highlighted the work being done by commercial harvesters – like those in Maine –to maintain a healthy balance in their forests are able to secure sequestered carbon in harvested lumber while also decreasing the risk of forest fires, which release massive amounts of carbon back into the atmosphere. 

Senator King: “One of the concerns, I know is from the environmental point of view, about carbon, we’re all concerned about carbon, and climate as I am and I’ve been deeply involved in these issues for many years. One of the things I’ve learned in studying the issues of the forest, is that a growing forest sequesters more carbon than a mature forest. Growing trees sequester more carbon, but the other piece and, of course that implies that it’s okay to cut trees because they grow back and you can increase the carbon sink value of an acre, but the other piece is, harvested timber that goes into lumber the carbon remains sequester in a house or in a building or in a piece of plywood. On the other hand, when these fires occur that carbon is released with a vengeance, so I think from a point of view of carbon, if greater harvesting, and I’m not talking about massive clearcutting, I’m talking about reasonable commercial harvesting as we do in Maine, that can actually contribute to the sequestration of carbon rather than, as opposed to what is an undeniable, and I think you’ve testified, relationship between lack of harvesting and pre-commercial thinning and fires, which are a massive release of carbon and in a very dramatic way. Is my analysis correct?”

Christiansen: “You’re absolutely right Senator. First and foremost is to keep the forest on the land in a healthy condition so they don’t burn up and omit all that carbon and they can be a part of the carbon storage and sometimes we have to harvest the smaller forest to keep the resilience, the underbrush and all of that while we grow the bigger forests and that can be a commercial product. And then, you absolutely right, the good news, it’s called the life-cycle analysis, carbon is stored in harvested wood products and thanks to the foresight of many that came before us...”

Senator King is a strong supporter of efforts to revitalize Maine’s forest economy to further economic opportunities for Maine people. He was key in establishing the Forest Opportunity Roadmap Maine (FOR/ME) Initiative, an industry-led initiative that is helping to diversify the state’s wood products businesses, attract investments, support research and development, and develop greater economic prosperity for rural communities impacted by mill closures. Senator King has introduced the Biomass Thermal Utilization (BTU) Act to support renewable energy and Maine’s forest products industry. He is also a cosponsor of several bills focused on climate related initiatives, including the Growing Climate Solutions Act, legislation that would break down barriers to farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices, and the Trillion Trees Initiative to support U.S. leadership in reducing carbon in the atmosphere by restoring and conserving forests, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal habitats. 

The FOR/ME Initiative was funded as a result of the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) requested by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and King in 2016, with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in order to create strategies for job growth and economic development in Maine’s rural communities. FOR/ME is implementing a roadmap and action plan for the development of new markets for Maine’s forest resources, including the strengthening of existing forest products manufacturing, the attraction of investment in emerging technology, and the utilization of forest products residuals in CHP biomass plants, microgrids, modern thermal systems, and new forest products development. The FOR/ME Initiative has already resulted in multiple funding opportunities for Maine organizations and new investment in Maine’s forest economy.

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