Ancient forests are the lungs of the planet, absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen for life. They're also our richest repository of biodiversity, home to more than half of all known species worldwide.

But these forests are disappearing fast. Logging, mining, livestock grazing, recreation, urbanization, and other threats have destroyed 80 percent of the world's ancient forests in the past few centuries. Deforestation is now the number-one cause of species extinction. And in the United States, ancient forests on public lands continue to be liquidated by timber corporations.

To save our country's most species-rich habitat, the Center seeks to protect and restore forest ecosystems throughout the Southwest, Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast and southeastern Alaska. We bring a potent combination of litigation, policy advocacy, and collaboration to protect forest-dependent species, challenge misguided logging proposals, and restore forests degraded by a century of mismanagement. Guided by in-depth scientific and technical research, we ensure that wide-ranging old-growth dependent species — like the northern and Queen Charlotte goshawks and Mexican and California spotted owls — have the healthy, intact forests that are necessary for their survival.

To date, Center efforts have yielded sweeping changes, including a 16-month logging injunction in Arizona and New Mexico national forests, protection for millions of acres of critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, the halting of countless old-growth timber sales, the establishment of science-based protection for Pacific fishers in the Sierra Nevada and Northwest, and cutting-edge restoration policies for the Southwest's degraded forests. But even after a judge threw out Bush-era anti-wildlife forest policies as illegal in June 2009, the next month the U.S. Forest Service adopted policies denying crucial protections to species populations dwelling in national forests across the country. When the Forest Service announced it would develop new rules to manage wildlife on the country's national forests in December 2009, we and more than 100 other groups urged the agency to seek input and oversight from independent scientists in the process. Unfortunately, the Forest Service's latest proposal for the national-forest system would still decrease longstanding protections for forest wildlife. We'll continue to work to ensure that management rules harming public forests go away — and that future policies prioritize native biological diversity, the forest ecosystems it depends on, and the global climate we all must protect for our survival.

Photo of forest at Point Reyes by edrabbit/Flickr.