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Idea of the Day: Public Lands Are the Source of More Carbon Pollution than They Can Absorb

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Spanning more than one-fifth of the U.S. landmass, America’s national forests, national parks, and other public lands have long been valued for their ability to absorb and store carbon and other air pollutants. “Forests,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”

Yet rather than fulfilling their natural role of absorbing carbon and balancing the carbon cycle, public lands have become one of the largest sources of U.S. carbon emissions as a result of fossil fuel extraction. In fact, public lands in the continental United States are contributing nearly 4.5 times more carbon to the atmosphere than they are currently able to absorb. The extraction of coal, oil, and natural gas from public lands—and their subsequent combustion in power plants, vehicles, and other energy-consuming activities—is the primary cause of this imbalance.

To address this growing problem, we propose a carbon-emissions reduction plan for public lands that, using a range of tools already available to land managers and the administration, would:

  • Increase public lands’ ability to naturally sequester carbon
  • Decrease carbon pollution from fossil fuels extracted from public lands

For more on this topic, please see:

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.741.6285 or kpeters@americanprogress.org

Print: Anne Shoup (foreign policy and national security, energy, LGBT issues, health care, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7146 or ashoup@americanprogress.org

Print: Crystal Patterson (immigration)
202.478.6350 or cpatterson@americanprogress.org

Print: Madeline Meth (women's issues, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.741.6277 or mmeth@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Lindsay Hamilton
202.483.2675 or lhamilton@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

 

This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here