SAF Weighs in on Mature and Old-Growth Forest Management

Updated February 23, 2023 
Originally published October 19, 2022

Update (February 23, 2023): As the agencies near a final decision on defining these complex terms, SAF continued its education efforts with the release of a one-page briefer titled “Defining Mature and Old Growth.” This briefer will help to educate staffers, decisionmakers, and government leaders on science-based definitions of mature and old growth as well as climate-smart strategies for conservation. 

Although spurred by EO 14072, this briefer can be used across a variety of outreach opportunities to highlight the need for science-based, professional forest management. We encourage you to share broadly within your networks. 

Download briefer. 


On April 22, 2022, the Biden Administration signed Executive Order 14072—also known as “Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies”—which set the stage for a number of forest-centered policy initiatives. Within EO 14072, Section 2(b) specifically calls on the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior, within one year, to define, identify, and complete an inventory of old-growth and mature forests on federal lands. The agencies put out a “Request for Information” (RFI) in July meant to inform the public about the 2(b) initiative and to solicit information from the public as to how the agencies should design the program. 

SAF submitted two public comments in response to the RFI that addressed the implications, concerns, and opportunities of the 2(b) initiative. In writing these comments, we drew on input from our members as well as existing policies in our national position statements. SAF also coordinated with the National Association of Forest Service Retirees (NAFSR) and the Public Lands Foundation (PLF) to submit a second public comment addressing other technical concerns of the initiative. You can read SAF’s own public comment here as well as our joint public comment with NAFSR and PLF here.

In both comments, SAF emphasized the importance of active forest management in addressing the challenges facing our all of our forestlands, including mature and old-growth stands. Under compounding threats like climate change, catastrophic wildfire, insects, and disease, our forests require science-based strategies for long-term resilience. We also pressed the agencies to understand that forests must be defined regionally and by forest type; there are no universal set of characteristics that can define mature or old growth across America’s diverse landscapes. We dive into many other important topics implicated by the exercise, so we encourage you to read and share the comments!

SAF Public Comments
Joint Public Comments

In addition to the comments, SAF also sent a letter to the USDA Forest Service, which you can read here