09/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Great Day for Forests and the Climate

North American forests have had a good day today. This morning, Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, announced stronger fiber sourcing standards that will increase conservation of forests globally and will make the company a leader for sustainably produced tissue products. In turn, Greenpeace, which worked with Kimberly-Clark on its new policy, announced that we will end our "Kleercut" campaign, which focused on the company and its brands.

Shortly after the Greenpeace/Kimberly-Clark announcement, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, restoring protections to more than 58 million acres of National Forest lands.

The significance of these two events cannot be overstated. Kimberly-Clark, as the biggest manufacturer of tissue products in the world, has set the bar higher for other tissue makers. They have sent a signal to other companies like Georgia Pacific and Proctor and Gamble that they will have to play catch up, and that consumers are clearly more interested in sustainably produced products.

The Roadless Rule ruling also sends a powerful signal. The decision should be a sign to President Obama that to avoid future lawsuits and controversy, he should permanently protect Roadless Areas in National Forests. While Obama made commitments as a presidential candidate to "support and defend" roadless forests, his administration has a mixed record with regard to Roadless Area conservation. Recently, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack green-lighted the Orion timber sale in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. That logging project includes road-building and clearcutting in temperate rainforests bordering the Misty Fjords National Monument.

Deforestation and forest degradation are both a cause and a result of climate change. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and use it to grow, but when they decay or burn the carbon dioxide is released again. Decaying plants also produce methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. Roughly 20 percent of greenhouse gases comes from deforestation.

If we are to put the brakes on climate change, we must protect our forests. Today was a great start.