Hard Working Forests in the NW

One reason people enjoy kayaking the San Juan Islands and visiting the Northwest is due in part to the beauty of the lush, verdant forests in our region. Not only do these forests provide valuable habitat and recreational opportunities, but they also play a major role in combating climate change by storing carbon.

In a recent analysis released by the Wilderness Society, the top 10 national forests for storing green house gases in the United States are in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska. The Olympic National Forest tied with Umpqua National Forest in Oregon as the second-best carbon bank of all the 120 national forests in the country, according to the report. Willamette National Forest in Oregon was No. 1, and Gifford Pinchot Forest in southwest Washington ranked fourth.

Mike Anderson, a Wilderness Society senior resource analyst and a co-author of the report, explained that the region’s mature trees, abundant moisture, productive soils, long growing season and relative lack of forest fire all contribute to the high carbon density in the national forests. This study found that the trees and soil in the national forests in Washington, Oregon, and southeast Alaska store about 9.8 billion metric tons of carbon. In comparison, one year of fossil fuel burned in the United States contains 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The report goes on to explain the importance of ensuring that these areas are protected from being over harvested. Some 60 percent of the carbon stored in a tree leaks out when it is harvested, and globally, about 20 percent of all recent, human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions can be traced to deforestation.

So the next time you walk through a forest, make sure you hug a tree for making our air cleaner! Maybe that’s where the term “tree hugger” comes from, no?

Join Outdoor Odysseys for fun, natural history oriented kayak tours in the sunny San Juan Islands of Washington State.

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