Photo of looking up into a tree canopy.
FALL COLOR FOREST at The Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia. © Kent Mason

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Lawmakers Expand Reforestation Proposal

New bill lifts cap on spending for federal planting, management efforts.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate today introduced legislation to significantly expand reforestation work on federal lands.

In December, Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced legislation that set a goal for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to address its reforestation backlog within 10 years. That legislation proposed to double annual funding for the Reforestation Trust Fund to $60 million.

Today’s legislation – the Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees Act (REPLANT) Act – from the same senators now lifts the cap entirely. Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Kim Schrier, D-Wash., and Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., sponsored the matching bill in the House.

Our forests face many challenges, and with this legislation, we can rise to those challenges.

Director of North American Policy & Govt. Relations at TNC

“The importance of forests to our health, our economy and our future cannot be overstated, and today’s move improves on an already great idea,” said Kameran Onley, director of North American policy and government relations at The Nature Conservancy. “Removing the spending cap unlocks the potential for reforestation to improve air and water quality, protect habitats, expand outdoor recreation access and combat climate change. Our forests face many challenges, and with this legislation, we can rise to those challenges.”

The USFS estimates that 1.3 million acres of national forest land need reforestation, including lands that experienced wildfires and other major disturbances, yet current funding levels for the federal Reforestation Trust Fund only address about 15% of the reforestation backlog every year.

Like its predecessor, this legislation still specifies reforestation priorities on the national forest system and explicitly includes reforestation as an eligible project under USFS partnership contracting authorities.

“The bipartisan support for this proposal demonstrates how scalable and effective reforestation can help tackle threats facing our natural world, and we appreciate the sponsors’ commitment to investing in our forests,” said Onley. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.