Press Release

U.S. Forest Service unveils plan to conserve remaining old-growth forests

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, WA, Andy Porter

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, WA

Andy Porter

Old-growth forest plan amendment marks progress yet needs strengthening

Washington D.C. (June 20, 2024) -- Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to adopt a nationwide forest plan amendment to conserve old-growth forests across the National Forest System. 

In response to this news, The Wilderness Society issued the following statement: 

We need the U.S. Forest Service to create a clear path for old-growth conservation paired with climate-informed wildfire management, if our oldest forests are to remain for generations to come,” said The Wilderness Society’s President Jamie Williams. “The proposed national old-growth amendment is a step in the right direction, but it must go further to protect and restore resilient old-growth forests in a way that meets the challenges of the changing climate.” 

The draft nationwide forest plan amendment, which kickstarts a 90-day comment period and closes on September 20, 2024, proposes important reforms to the nation’s forest plans, including: 


  • Establishes affirmative direction that the conservation of our oldest forests is a critical part of addressing the wildfire crisis, 

  • Provides some protection for remaining old-growth forests from harmful logging, 

  • Creates a roadmap that promotes a collaborative, community-led approach for conserving old-growth forests, including identifying forests that should be stewarded to become old-growth in the future, 

  • Elevates the role of Tribes in forest management through co-stewardship agreements, and 

  • Includes the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska within the amendment’s scope of old-growth conservation. 


Currently, no national policy specifically governs the management of old-growth forests or protects them from threats posed by climate-driven wildfire and commercial logging. To the extent old-growth forests are protected, local forest management plans currently provide limited protection of old-growth which is often outdated and inadequate.  


We are losing our remaining old-growth forests at an alarming rate, and we need a plan to conserve what little remains and help the older cohort of mature forests reach the old-growth phase. The national old-growth amendment has the potential to provide clear direction that local forest managers must follow to facilitate climate-informed, ecologically based forest management that helps address the wildfire crisis and recognizes fire as an essential ecological process.  


While the draft amendment is taking necessary steps towards addressing the increasing threats our forests face from climate change, The Wilderness Society will be carefully reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and suggesting ways to improve the Forest Service’s latest proposal. This includes: 


  • Promoting stewardship of our forests that enhances old-growth forest quality instead of reducing forest quality to the bare minimum for what qualifies as old-growth, 

  • Creating a collaborative, equitable, and science-based process for identifying areas on each national forest that can be stewarded into becoming old-growth forests for future generations, and  

  • Continuing to listen to Tribes and incorporate feedback throughout the design of the nationwide forest plan amendment and in its implementation.  

For more information, contact Emily Denny at The Wilderness Society; or 202-240-1788