Elected Officials from Southern Coastal States call on Europe to Protect Forests
Following the Devastation of Hurricane Matthew to Southern Coastal Communities, Group Calls for an End To Burning Forests for Fuel and Increased Protection for Wetlands on the International Day of Natural Disaster Reduction
Asheville, NC – Today, local elected officials spanning political parties and several Southeastern states sent a letter to European leaders asking them to promptly reform bioenergy policies that incentivize the destruction and logging of forests. In accordance with the UN-recognized International Day of Natural Disaster Reduction, local elected officials from Virginia to Florida took their local leadership to an international level. Representing over one million Southerners, the public officials want to enhance their communities’ resilience to extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change by communicating directly with European officials who are impacting their ability to do so.
This letter follows on the heels of Hurricane Matthew which claimed the lives of nineteen people in North Carolina and caused billions of dollars in damages that will take years to recover from. In the past 60 years, the Southern US has lost 33 million acres of natural forests including over 75% of our forested wetlands, which provide protection from flooding and storm surge when left standing. Leading economists estimate the protection coastal wetland forests provide communities from extreme weather at over $24 Billion dollars.
“Forests are one of our best defenses against natural disasters. Whether it’s flooding, landslides, storm surges, droughts, or hurricanes, forests play a vital role in the protection of lives and livelihoods,” said James Holmes, County Commissioner from Chatham County, Georgia. “No matter what type of storm threatens our local communities, allowing natural forests to remain intact is a cost-effective investment and helps save the lives of our citizens.”
Since the European Union’s original bioenergy policy was created in 2010, tens of millions of tons of wood pellets have been exported from Southern forests to fuel European Union ‘renewable’ energy quotas. Many of the forests lost have been from bottomland hardwood forests which are not only precious environmental habitat but also provide critical flood protection to our coastal communities.
“As it stands, the European Union’s bioenergy policy and its associated subsidies are driving an unsustainable expansion of wood pellet manufacturing facilities in our region. These policies, though originally well-intentioned, incentivize industrial logging and degradation of our native southeastern forests, including coastal wetland forests.” said Philip Stoddard from South Miami, Florida.
The EU Commission is currently determining the future of its bioenergy policy and plans to release a new policy in late 2016 which is what stimulated these officials to act. According to the letter, the local elected officials came together for the protection of forests from bioenergy to “ensure our economic prosperity, to protect our health and children, and to ensure our security and safety.”
Daniel Dietch, Mayor of Surfside Florida, summarized their concerns, “I understand the role that forests play in reducing vulnerability to natural disasters and I also understand that one of the best ways to protect the communities we represent is by supporting the conservation of our standing forests and improving management practices in our working forests.”