Sierra Summit

Conversations and observations about California's mountains

March 25, 2009
Climate change and national forests - a rural perspective
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Since 1993, Lynn Jungwirth has spoken out often and eloquently on behalf of rural communities and healthy forests. Now, she is talking about climate change, too. 
Earlier this month, Lynn - who directs the Watershed Center in Hayfork, a tiny town in northern California - testified before a Congressional sub-committee about how national forests can help combat climate change - and restore rural economies at the same time.  It is a big dream and, as Lynn made clear, it won't be easy. I found her testimony intriguing - and I thought you might too. She began with a broad overview and moved on  to more complex - and often contentious - issues of forest management and carbon sequestration. So, without further adieu, here are a few highlights. 

"Climate change discussions in the United States ... have been dominated by an urban, industrial perspective that focuses on transportation, electricity generation, and large-scale manufacturing.... The rural perspective is somewhat different, perhaps because rural communities and landscapes are experiencing the ecological stresses of climate change, including insect pandemics, intense wildfires, degraded fisheries, invasive species, and ecosystem conversion at an observable rate. We don't actually need the scientists to measure the change in climate; we are living it."

"Healthy, resilient forests sequester carbon. In the Trinities, we started 12 years ago, thinning overstocked stands both for hazardous fuels reduction and to improve the quality of the spotted owl habitat. Subsequent measurement has shown increased growth rates in the remaining trees. The carbon sink is increasing. What is not so obvious is that forest restoration can also provide biofuels for transportation, reduce carbon intensive energy use in the industrial sector through combined head and power biomass plants, and reduce the carbon intensity of electrical power by co-firing coal plants with wood pellets and using woody biomass for electrical generation (a common strategy in the European Union)."

"The Trinity Forest is a nice little forest. It is over a million and a half acres in the Klamath Knot, one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. Please don't manage it for carbon. Manage it to be resilient. Manage it to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Manage it to be here for another 400 years. If you do, the carbon sink will come. The greenhouse gas emissions from wildfire will drop. The biofuels can be developed. The renewable energy will be developed and sustained. The owl and the coho will have a chance at survival. And so will we."

If you'd like to read Lynn's testimony in its entirety, you can do so at this link:

More information about the Watershed Center can be found at:

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About Sierra Summit

The Author
Tom Knudson lives in the Sierra Nevada and travels widely throughout the range. His hobbies include fly-fishing, backpacking and cross-country skiing. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a 1992 Sacramento Bee series "Sierra in Peril," a watershed work about environmental threats to the mountain range. E-mail Tom at

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