Washington, DC, Nov 5, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Today, American Forests celebrated the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which incorporates the REPLANT Act, for its significant investments in reforestation and forest resilience, advancing equity, combating climate change, and mitigating catastrophic wildfires.

“American Forests has championed the REPLANT Act, leading the campaign for climate smart reforestation,” said Jad Daley, American Forests president and chief executive officer. “Today is a huge win for our national forests and communities across the country. Our forests are feeling the pain of climate change, succumbing to fires, drought and extreme weather that leave them unable to regrow on their own. REPLANT provides our forests and our Forest Service with direly needed funding to prepare our forests for the future.”

The REPLANT Act removes a cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund, quadrupling U.S. Forest Service funding to replant millions of acres across the National Forest System. The Forest Service is currently facing a reforestation backlog of more than 4 million acres, largely driven by catastrophic wildfires that have increased in frequency and intensity due to climate change. Without REPLANT, the Forest Service has been able to meet only about six percent of the existing need for reforestation projects. Now, with particular thanks to Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), a principal negotiator of the IIJA, and fellow lead REPLANT sponsors Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID), resources will at last be provided to meet the crisis.

The IIJA provides many more wins for America’s forests beyond the REPLANT Act. It includes $425 million for post-fire recovery and burned area rehabilitation; $692 million for hazardous fuels management activities; and $200 million for a national seed and seedling strategy to bolster capacity so the right trees can be planted in the right places. IIJA also includes grants for climate smart restoration to historically underserved tribes and private forestry landowners, as well as funding for abandoned mineland reforestation. The IIJA invests $100 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program to encourage science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes; over $1.5 billion for state and private forestry to support integrated landscape approaches; and $200 million for tribal forest restoration priorities. The IIJA also authorizes a new Healthy Streets program to couple tree planting in urban heat islands with new technologies like cool and porous pavements to improve the health and quality of life of urban residents.

“The infrastructure bill is a game-changing step in the right direction in combating climate change, but we are poised to do even more,” Daley said. “Congress must pass the Build Back Better Act with all forestry funding preserved from the initial framework levels to multiply the benefits of the climate provisions in the infrastructure bill.”

“Our partners on the ground are ready and eager to implement this transformational funding, which will revitalize communities, protect livelihoods, and save lives,” Daley said. “America’s trees are critical to the nation as natural infrastructure and as soldiers in the fight against climate change. This unprecedented funding will return dividends for years in lives saved, carbon sequestered, jobs created and forests restored.”

To learn more about details of the IIJA and the REPLANT Act, visit https://www.americanforests.org/article/celebrating-the-infrastructure-bill-a-win-for-americas-forests.