Rate of Forest Conservation Will Double
President Donald J. Trump signed federal legislation today that will dramatically increase the pace of forest conservation across America. The move comes after decades of work within both political parties, including overwhelming support from the current Congress.
Passage of this legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act, has also been a longstanding priority for American Forests, which has led some of the most influential forest conservation measures in American history, including the creation of the U.S. national forests that now cover 193 million acres.
The Great American Outdoors Act requires that Congress annually allocate the full $900 million in annual funding that was promised for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) when it was enacted more than 50 years ago. This action was needed because Congress has regularly diverted half or more of this funding, shortchanging federal investment in public land acquisition and private forest conservation.
Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act means twice as much funding for governments to expand America’s public land so people have more opportunities to access forests and other natural areas for hiking, biking, fishing and more. The increased funding will also enable more grants from the Forest Legacy Program, the primary federal funding for private forest owners to voluntarily protect their forests through conservation easements.
House and Senate leaders from both political parties voted for the legislation earlier this summer. Many view the legislation as a tool for addressing two of the most pressing challenges of the day: public health and the economy. Never have people in the United States valued their parks, trails, forests and waterways more, turning to them for emotional solace and physical activity in this time of isolation and anxiety. From an economic standpoint, the legislation is a win because every $1 million invested in LWCF will support between 16.8 and 30.8 jobs.
This commitment to fully fund LWCF aligns with increasing interest across America to help conserve, restore and grow 1 trillion trees globally by 2030 — an initiative led by the World Economic Forum and American Forests called 1t.org.
Congress has an opportunity to build on the Great American Outdoors Act and further advance the trillion trees vision with swift passage of a closely related piece of legislation, The REPLANT Act, which was introduced in the House and Senate last month. The REPLANT Act fixes another federal trust fund, the U.S. Forest Service Reforestation Trust Fund, by removing an outdated funding cap. This would quadruple the funding available annually to the U.S. Forest Service for reforesting America’s national forests, which is urgently needed now that forests are dying and burning at an unprecedented rate due to climate change. While the Great American Outdoors Act will enable America to acquire more land for national forests, The REPLANT Act will assure that the U.S. Forest Service has the needed funding to keep national forests covered in trees.
American Forests will be working with the members of Congress leading The REPLANT Act to secure this critical legislation as a capstone to this historic summer of conservation.