PAUL ROSSETTI was working with a company that uses drones to reforest after wildfires when he learned a troubling fact: tree nurseries in the United States don’t produce nearly enough seedlings to reforest at the scale many believe is needed to make a profound difference in mitigating climate change.
So, when he found out that American Forests was helping conduct a comprehensive study of the problem — and detailed solutions for fixing it — he saw a chance to do something. His family foundation, the Paul and June Rossetti Foundation, helped fund the revealing study and the solutions guide for policymakers.
The study, co-authored by 18 scientists and forestry professionals, found that U.S. nurseries would have to more than double their seedling production to realize even half of the potential of forests to fight climate change, create jobs and recover from increasingly extreme wildfires. The March 2021 study was the most comprehensive yet to examine the barriers nurseries face to ramping up.
The scope of the foundation’s impact would have surprised Rossetti four years ago, when he left the world of private equity to create a small foundation to address climate change. He and his wife, June, and their three daughters homed in on supporting natural solutions, such as reforestation and sustainable agriculture. The Rossettis wanted to keep their work close to home, funding local and state efforts, including a project mapping all natural, climate-related opportunities in their home state of Colorado.
“Being in Colorado, we wanted to work in areas relevant to our community, where we can know the people have got to fund these kinds of things because institutional capital doesn’t do that,” Rossetti says.
But the need for a nationwide study of the reforestation pipeline prompted the Rossettis to seriously broaden the foundation’s reach. “I think the family foundations have got to fund these kinds of things because institutional capital doesn’t do that,” Rossetti says.
Up next for the foundation: working with American Forests and others to devise ways of driving private investment into building nursery capacity and scaling up reforestation to help mitigate climate change.
“Tackling climate change will require large-scale and broad-based action. But we won’t be successful if we don’t fully understand the barriers and opportunities in front of us,” says Eric Sprague, vice president of forest restoration for American Forests. “Investments like the one from the Paul and June Rossetti Foundation are important to providing that clarity and to scaling the funding and policies to meet the moment.”