Views of mountaintops in fall at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park in Tennessee.
Mountain view of the Ataya tract and Cumberland Mountains from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park in Tennessee. © Byron Jorjorian

Policy

America's Forests: A Natural Climate & Resilience Solution

Forests Need Federal Investment in FY22

America’s forests are home to the world’s tallest, biggest and oldest trees but need sensible investments in stewardship and forestry to continue delivering the benefits they provide for the nation's water, communities, wildlife and climate.

American forests are home to the world's tallest, biggest and oldest trees, but need sensible investments in stewardship and forestry to continue delivering the benefits they provide for the nation's water, communities, wildlife, and climate.

American forests are critical to the economy, public health and environment. The nation's forests:

  • Store and filter more than half of the nation’s water supply.
  • Provide jobs to more than 1 million forest product workers.
  • Offer 1 million square miles to sportsmen and families for outdoor recreation.
  • Generate $13.6 billion in recreation-based economic activity from national forests alone.
  • Are habitat to thousands of forest-dependent wildlife and plant species.
  • Are a major carbon sink that sequesters 15% of all fossil fuel emissions in the United States.

Climate change is exacerbating conditions such as megafires, pests and drought, all of which are decimating forests. An area larger than Oregon is in need of restoration to maintain services for people, water and wildlife—and that is on national forest lands alone.

At the same time, these forests have the potential to deliver significant natural climate solutions if the capacity of these forest lands to sequester and store additional carbon is enhanced, with the added benefit of reducing emissions from wildfire. Supporting strong investments in forest resilience will help protect the climate while also benefiting wildlife and biodiversity, water security, public safety and rural economies.

Congress took a major step toward stabilizing the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the Department of the Interior’s budgets with the enactment of the Wildfire and Disaster Funding Adjustment in the FY18 Consolidated Appropriations Act. However, this “fire fix” will not be fully successful without substantial reinvestments in programs that would increase forest resilience. Strong investment in forest resilience, collaborative stewardship, research and wildfire prevention programs will help improve the productivity of the country's forests.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recommends Congress reinvest fire fix savings back into agency programs that would increase the pace and scale of restoration and reduce wildfire risk. TNC prioritizes the following appropriation allocations for forest programs:

A chart showing TNC U.S. forest funding recommendations for FY22.
Forest Funding Recommendations Highlights of The Nature Conservancy's federal funding recommendations for FY22.
Red spruce planting initiative in West Virginia.
Reforestation: Red spruce planting initiative in West Virginia. © Patrick Cavan Brown

Reforestation Initiative: A new Reforestation Initiative under Vegetation and Watershed Management funded at $30 million would complement the Reforestation Trust Fund by supporting seed banking, nurseries and training, in addition to planting trees.

Photo of a front end loader in a river adding woody debris.
Restoring Waters The US Forest Service adds woody debris into Twelve Mile Creek to restore important salmon habitat on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. © Erika Nortemann/TNC

Watersource Protection Program: The 2018 Farm Bill established this new cost share program authorizing the Forest Service to work with water users to address watershed restoration plans for national forests, including wildfire risk reduction activities and should be funded at $30 million.