WASHINGTON D.C. – Last month Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) has introduced the Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees Act or the REPLANT Act (HR 7843). This legislation will expand funding for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to carry out reforestation projects in U.S. forestland damaged by events such as wildfires, insects and disease, while creating more than 48,000 jobs over the next ten years.
“Washington’s forests are threatened by drought, pestilence, and extreme wildfire events, much of that related to climate change,” said Schrier. “This is deeply concerning because trees are vital to keeping our air clean and sequestering carbon dioxide. Their roots are critical to maintaining good water quality for fish and wildlife ecosystems. Replanting trees will help slow the effects of a warming climate, and protect our pristine Northwest environment for generations to come.”
To address the Forest Service’s reforestation backlog, the bill removes the current $30 million annual funding cap for the Reforestation Trust Fund, the primary source of funding for USFS’s replanting needs, making an average of $123 million annually available for reforestation in National Forests. In addition, the REPLANT Act will direct USFS to quantify the backlog of replanting needs, reduce delays by expanding stewardship contracting, and encourage state and Tribal partnerships. Among other associated activities, reforestation includes planting tree seedlings on forests that are unlikely to regenerate on their own in order to reestablish native plants and ensure the health of ecosystems and wildlife that depend on forests.
Replanting forests is an effective way to create jobs in rural America, support natural ecosystems and improve natural carbon sequestration. Estimates show that the REPLANT Act would help plant 410,000 acres, or 123 million trees annually, for a total of 4.1 million acres (1.23 billion trees) over the next ten years. That’s the equivalent of sequestering 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or avoiding the use of 8.5 billion gallons of gasoline, in a decade.
USFS has estimated that in FY 2018, 80 percent of its reforestation needs were attributed to wildfires. One recent study found that tree mortality caused by insects and diseases alone—which impacts less acreage than wildfires—released 6 million tons of carbon, the equivalent of tailpipe emissions from 4.4 million cars.
According to American Forests, U.S. forests and forest products currently offset 14-15 percent of total U.S. carbon emissions. In addition to restoring forest health across the country, the legislation will support rural employment and enhance recreational opportunities within national forests.
“America’s forests provide essential wildlife habitat, protect healthy watersheds and clean drinking water, and serve as natural carbon-sinks — a vital climate solution. Investing in forest restoration and reforestation benefits wildlife and people alike. The National Wildlife Federation is grateful to Senators Udall, Portman, and Stabenow, and Congressmen Panetta, Simpson, Schrier, and LaMalfa, for their efforts to accelerate efforts to improve the health of our National Forests by making them more resilient to escalating impacts from megafires, drought, pests, and disease — all of which are exacerbated by climate change,” said Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation.
“We need immediate, bipartisan action to protect people and help slow climate change. Smart policy that embraces nature as a climate solution is integral to any comprehensive climate solution. This bill shows us how to use trees to do just that, removing carbon from the air, reforesting fire-scarred landscapes, and creating jobs. I am encouraged to see this bipartisan legislation introduced in both the House and Senate and look forward to advancing this critical policy,” added Bill Lee, The Trust for Public Land.
“Our national forests are suffering from climate-change induced wildfires, droughts, pests and other forest killers. The REPLANT Act would help make our forests healthy again by nearly tripling the rate of reforesting our national forests—to 1.2 billion trees every decade. And, as a much-needed bonus, it would help address two of the most pressing issues of the day: the economy and climate change. The REPLANT Act would create nearly 49,000 new jobs every decade and help capture carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to using more than 85 billion gallons of gas,” said Jad Daley, American Forests.