Our West Virginia Highlands are a biologically important treasure and perform an immeasurable role in our ability to support and promote tourism, provide clean drinking water, and clean air not only to West Virginians, but to the Eastern United States. They stand as a resilient stronghold, providing significant benefits for people, the environment, and the economy. People, many of which are unaware, are receiving these benefits even though they may not visit our public lands.
Forest Plan Stirs a Dispute Over What Counts as Old
Last month the president signed an executive order aimed at protecting the United States’ forests, especially old-growth forests. The order directs the Department of the Interior to inventory the old-growth forests on federal lands over the course of the next year and identify the threats to these trees along with ways to better safeguard them.
As reported in the Associated Press, the order is raising a simple yet vexing question: When does a forest grow old?
Experts say there’s no simple formula to determine what’s old. Growth rates among different tree species vary greatly — and even within species, depending on their access to water and sunlight and soil conditions.
Any definitions for old growth or mature trees adopted by the administration are “going to be subjective,” said Mark Ashton, a forestry professor at the Yale School of the Environment.
Already disagreement is emerging between the timber industry and environmentalists over which trees to count. That’s likely to complicate the administration’s efforts to protect older forests as part of the climate change fight.
There’s wide consensus on the importance of preserving the oldest and largest trees — both symbolically as marvels of nature, and more practically because their trunks and branches store large amounts of carbon that can be released when the trees are harvested or forests burn, adding to climate change.
The WVHC Public Lands Committee will continue to monitor the implementation of the executive order requirements by the Monongahela National Forest, George Washington National Forest, and the Jefferson National Forest and will report progress in future articles in the Highlands Voice.
The Importance of Carbon Sequestration in Our Forests
The increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has caused a significant interest in carbon capture and sequestration technology in an effort to explore opportunities for climate change mitigation.
According to the US Forest Service, America’s forests sequester just under a billion tons of carbon a year, which is roughly 16% of the US annual emissions.
Forests sequester or store carbon mainly in trees and soil. During the process of photosynthesis trees pull carbon out of the atmosphere, but they also release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere through decomposition. Carbon and other gases within forests are captured and released on a cycle. Forest management is able to influence these cycles and enhance carbon capture.
How does atmospheric carbon sequestration work?
There is also a great graphic of how carbon flows through the forest at ForestCarbonGraphics_040522 (dovetailinc.org) which is of great interest.
The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions
Minerals are essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies – from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. Demand for these minerals will grow quickly as clean energy transitions gather pace. A new World Energy Outlook Special Report provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the complex links between these minerals and the prospects for a secure, rapid transformation of the energy sector.
Alongside a wealth of detail on mineral demand prospects under different technology and policy assumptions, it examines whether today’s mineral investments can meet the needs of a swiftly changing energy sector. It considers the task ahead to promote responsible and sustainable development of mineral resources, and offers vital insights for policy makers, including six key IEA recommendations for a new, comprehensive approach to mineral security.
An energy system powered by clean energy technologies differs profoundly from one fueled by traditional hydrocarbon resources. Solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, wind farms and electric vehicles (EVs) generally require more minerals to build than their fossil fuel-based counterparts. A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant. Since 2010 the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation capacity has increased by 50% as the share of renewables in new investment has risen.
See the report at The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions (windows.net).
Two great informative articles that I found at Leave No Trace:
Nature Positively Impacts Our Well-Being & Caring for It Can Enhance Our Moods Too
Nature Positively Impacts Our Well-Being & Caring for It Can Enhance Our Moods Too – Leave No Trace https://lnt.org (Disambigulation note: although it looks as if it could be the numeral one, the figure in the address is a lower case L)
The Burning Question: What are the Four D’s of Campfire Collection?
The Burning Question: What are the Four D’s of Campfire Collection? – Leave No Trace (lnt.org)
WVHC welcomes Crys Bauer to our position of Membership and Fulfillment Secretary. See more about Crys in this issue.
Thanks again to all of our members and supporters for you continued support making what we have done at the Highlands Conservancy for over 54 years possible. June will be another busy month at the Conservancy as well as for other environmental organizations that we continue to work with on various issues and projects throughout the Highlands. Enjoy The Highlands Voice as we report on the issues and happenings in or affecting the Highlands and please stay safe as the summer season starts this month.