Every hour, we’re losing the equivalent of a thousand football fields of forests. We're also losing the animals that depend on these forests for their survival—including the fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left on the planet as well as the critically endangered jaguar, orangutan and Bornean elephant.
Tropical forests and the wildlife they support are being burned to the ground or otherwise destroyed so that some of the world’s largest agricultural commodities companies can trade and sell soybeans, beef cattle and palm oil, much of it for U.S. consumption. That’s a terrible and tragic trade-off.
Head north and it’s the same story. Lynx, caribou and billions of migratory birds thrive in the cool green shade of the Canadian boreal forest. But one million acres of trees are chopped down every year, much of it for tissue products used in the U.S. That’s a bad deal for the wildlife living there, and also for our climate.
Here in the U.S., the good news is that the wildest, most untamed lands within our national forest system are protected by a 2001 policy called the “roadless rule,” which holds that those areas within our national forests that have remained free of logging and road-building should stay that way. But now the state of Alaska has petitioned the Trump administration to exempt the Tongass forest in Alaska, America’s largest national forest, from the roadless rule.
Forests are vital to protecting biodiversity, but they also play a critical role in stabilizing our climate.
They work like the planet’s lungs, breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen, reducing global warming and cleaning the air.
Cutting down these forests has the opposite effect. The leveled forest stops taking in carbon dioxide. And when forests are burned, as often happens in tropical areas to “clear” the land, they release back into the atmosphere the carbon they've taken in over many years.
If we want to save endangered species and slow global warming, we must stop burning and cutting down tropical forests.