By Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt
SEATTLE (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden marks Earth Day on Friday with a trip to lush but fire-prone Washington state and the signing of an executive order to protect old-growth forests.
The order Biden signs will create the first-ever inventory of old-growth forests on federal lands and develop a plan to conserve them. It will also task diplomats with doing more to combat deforestation abroad, the White House said.
The massive, sometimes ancient trees that dot the Western U.S. landscape absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, cutting the emissions that cause climate change and also make wildfires more likely.
They’re at risk. A single fire in 2020 in California killed more than 10% of the world’s giant sequoia trees, National Park Service scientists concluded.
“Wildfires and extreme weather events are growing in frequency and ferocity, engulfing communities in the West and across the country and costing lives, homes, and money,” the White House said in a fact sheet announcing the executive order.
Biden’s visit to Washington state marks the latest in a series of trips aimed at touting the administration’s accomplishments ahead of November’s mid-term elections.
He is set to deliver his Earth Day remarks at Seattle’s forested Seward Park at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time (1730 GMT) before visiting Green River College in Auburn, an hour’s drive outside of Seattle and part of Washington’s 8th Congressional District.
That district will stage one of the three dozen or so competitive races that will determine whether Biden’s Democrats retain control of the House of Representatives in November. Democrats are counting on high levels of participation by young and climate-focused voters to lift them to victory.
The $1 trillion infrastructure law Biden negotiated includes $8 billion for forest and land management activities. But much of Biden’s climate agenda remains stalled, awaiting sufficient legislative support to secure Senate passage.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)