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On Earth Day, Biden signs executive order aimed at protecting America's forests

The order focuses on reducing the risk of wildfires, fighting global deforestation and using nature itself to decrease pollution.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Friday that seeks to address the effect of the climate crisis on America's forests.

The order marking Earth Day focuses on reducing the risk of wildfires, fighting global deforestation and using nature itself to decrease pollution.

"There used to be a hell of a lot more forest like this, but we’re doing everything we can, everybody behind me and all of you, to protect what we have and increase what we have," Biden said at an event in Seattle.

Biden has been criticized by environmental groups who say he has not gone far enough to address climate change amid his efforts to increase oil production to lower gas prices.

In his remarks on Friday, Biden talked about how his infrastructure bill would help address climate change, as well as other efforts his administration has made to lower carbon emissions by promoting clean energy and electric vehicles.  

Biden said his administration was also working with Congress to help the military transition to clean energy technologies, including starting the process of making every military vehicle "climate friendly."

Despite opposition in Congress to passing legislation that would further fund projects to address climate change, Biden said he was optimistic that there would be progress in Washington on reducing carbon emissions.

"I just think this is the beginning of a new day and we’re gonna just have to overtake the opposition on this. I really mean it," Biden said.

The order signed Friday directs the federal government to conduct "the first-ever inventory of mature and old-growth forests on federal lands," which will take into account the threats to forests from wildfires and climate change, the White House said. Based on that inventory, the government plans to develop strategies to address those threats.

The Agriculture, Commerce and Interior departments will be directed to collaborate with the private sector and state, local, tribal and territorial governments to boost forest-related economic opportunities by creating jobs in outdoor recreation and in "sustainable wood, paper, and other forest products."

The order directs the federal government to develop reforestation targets for the year 2030 and would use "nature-based solutions" to help accomplish that. That includes "everything from restoring marshes, to planting shade trees, to promoting drought-resistant crops," the White House said.