America's Forests: A Natural Climate Solution
Forests Need Federal Investment in FY21
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 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:
*Reforestation Initiative: Ecological reforestation remains one of the most effective nature-based solutions for combating climate change. Reforestation also improves air quality, protects watersheds that provide drinking water for millions of people, preserves fish and wildlife habitats and expands recreation nationwide. A newly created 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.