To the Editor,
Currently, Rhode Island has no state laws protecting forests. This has led to Rhode Island holding the unfortunate distinction of being the only state in New England where no …
To the Editor,
Currently, Rhode Island has no state laws protecting forests. This has led to Rhode Island holding the unfortunate distinction of being the only state in New England where no forests on state-owned land are protected from logging.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has used this lack of protections to clearcut log forests on state land including in the Natural Heritage Areas leading to the death of rare and endangered species, deforestation, degradation of water and soil quality, spread of invasive species, air pollution from the released carbon contributing to Climate Change, and creating a fire hazard through the flammable wood slash left after logging operations.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, “Leaving slash after the harvest of forest products is as inevitable as leaving the core after eating an apple… it requires treatment primarily because it is highly flammable.”
DEM never removes wood slash from forests it logs because it is expensive, but the wood slash would not be there if they hadn’t logged the forest in the first place.
Representative Evan Shanley’s bill that was just introduced, the “Old Growth Forest Protection Act,” 2024 H 7293, would solve this by creating the first state laws in Rhode Island’s history to protect forests in Rhode Island. This includes prohibiting logging in publicly owned Old Growth Forests, which are more resistant to wildfires, and creating a functional Natural Areas Preserve system to protect other rare forests, as well as any forest desired by the public to be preserved in its natural state where no logging would be permitted.
This bill also brings back the Rhode Island Natural Heritage Program after 17 years to again identify, monitor, and protect biodiversity. The Natural Heritage Program would conduct environmental review and have final approval over state logging operations to make sure no old growth forests or rare forest ecosystems, containing rare and endangered species, are disturbed.
The new Natural Heritage Program would be responsible for designating and managing the Natural Area Preserves.
The bill also updates the state’s wildfire laws to impose stricter penalties for citizens who unlawfully start wildfires since according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, “Nationally, almost nine out of ten wildfires are caused by humans.”
Lastly, the bill amends the 2021 Act on Climate to incorporate forests as a priority since forests are instrumental in regulating our climate and sequestering and storing carbon.
A hearing for the bill will likely be in February and will be before the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
Please support the Old Growth Forest Protection Act to save Rhode Island’s forests and biodiversity.
President of the Old Growth Tree Society
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