Photo from near the summit of Burnt Mountain in Vermont, with fall foliage in distance.
Burnt Mountain Autumn at Burnt Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. © Heather Furman/The Nature Conservancy

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New Platform Charts Ambitious, Bipartisan Course to Revive, Restore America’s National Forests

Ecologically Appropriate, Climate-Informed Reforestation, Management Will Protect Clean Water, Create Jobs, Address Climate Crisis

America’s national forests need crucial new investments in ecologically appropriate, climate-informed reforestation and management to ensure they can weather the challenges they face and endure for future generations, according to a new policy platform from the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy and American Forests.

The platform urges substantial new investments in the U.S. Forest Service’s budget alongside other solutions, such as creating a carbon storage goal for national forests, improving forest health and addressing climate change and other root causes of the problems forests face. National forests should be part of any early-2021 infrastructure investments that put people back to work restoring our landscapes.

These recommendations provide the roadmap our forests need in a changing climate.

Lynn Scarlett Chief External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy

“The changing climate, modern megafires, and invasive species are all posing significant and intensifying challenges to America’s national forests. These crucial landscapes — critical for clean water, wildlife, outdoor recreation, and local economies — need solutions as big as the problems they face, and this platform lays out the new investments and policies that will create hundreds of thousands of good jobs, while ensuring our national forests endure for generations to come,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “These policy recommendations also underscore the active role our forests can play in advancing both our economic, public health, and climate goals by naturally sequestering carbon, cleaning up our air and waterways, and enhancing community resilience. Congress should swiftly take up these recommendations and ensure these remarkable public lands and wildlife habitat thrive.”

“If we catch up and keep up with reforesting our national forests after destructive events like wildfire, that additional forest growth would naturally capture carbon dioxide equal to the annual emissions from roughly 260,000 cars,” said Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests. “This policy platform provides Congress with the actions needed to reforest and restore America’s national forests at scale, capturing their full carbon potential. With help from healthy and resilient forests, we can avoid the worst consequences of climate change.” 

“These recommendations provide the roadmap our forests need in a changing climate,” said Lynn Scarlett, chief external affairs officer for The Nature Conservancy. “Warming temperatures, invasive species and wildfires are presenting unprecedented risks to forests, and these threats will only grow unless we change course. Advancing the recommendations in this framework will enhance forests’ role and potential as a natural climate solution as well as improve water quality, expand wildlife habitat and protect against catastrophic wildfires. The framework is feasible, actionable and will deliver real results for the country and nature by restoring and managing our forests for a more resilient future.”

The platform urges policymakers to take a series of steps, including:

  • Investing an additional $1 billion per year in the USFS budget to increase the scale and quality of forest restoration, including reorienting national forest stewardship to focus on climate and related ecological benefits;
  • Increasing and lifting the cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund and prioritizing reforestation where it is most needed;
  • Increasing USFS’s use of prescribed burning as a restoration tool that increases resilience;
  • Directing USFS to work with other agencies, academia and other experts, conservation organizations and other partners to develop a carbon storage target for national forests; and,
  • Including national forests in infrastructure legislation in a way that improves natural resource, community resilience and watersheds.

 

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 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, 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.