In response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Reforestation Strategy and REPLANT funding announcement today, American Forests vice president of forest restoration Brian Kittler released the following statement:

Today’s announcements will help address the nation’s urgent reforestation backlog while simultaneously arming our forests against climate change. American Forests applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s finalized U.S. Forest Service Reforestation Strategy, as well as the $100 million investment in priority projects using funding from the REPLANT Act, which together will bolster the health of the National Forest System. With a now year-round fire season exacerbated by climate change — along with severe seed shortages in concert with limited nursery capacity — this strategy and funding will harness the power of trees on our landscapes to make them more resilient.

The much-anticipated Reforestation Strategy builds on the U.S. Forest Service’s 10-year Wildfire Crisis Strategy, as well as President Biden’s Executive Order from April, underscoring the administration’s commitment to reforesting federal lands with urgency and a climate-forward approach. The strategy calls for the creation of regional plans that address the reforestation backlog and prioritizes climate-adapted resilient forests for the future. This represents a shift in the agency’s wildfire management strategies, equipping both pre- and post-burn landscape restoration approaches to prevent future wildfires from spiraling beyond suppression.

Our national forests have been succumbing to climate change-induced disturbances like drought, pests, diseases and wildfires with increased frequency, severity and scale, year after year. Following these high-severity events, we’re increasingly not seeing trees coming back — they’re crowded out by low-lying vegetation that prevents the natural regeneration of our forests, adversely affecting watershed health, carbon storage and future fire resilience. By employing holistic fire-resilient planting techniques through the Reforestation Strategy, the U.S. Forest Service will be better able to reverse this trend.

The $100 million in priority landscape reforestation projects announced today, funded through the REPLANT Act, will operate in tandem with the Reforestation Strategy to address national forest tree planting in both the near and long term. Funding will go directly to National Forest System landscapes through planting and site prep of regional projects. And this landmark allocation of REPLANT funding will also be deployed to expand federal nursery capacity and infrastructure, helping to address reforestation pipeline challenges where they begin. These direly-needed nursery investments are only a start, and we look forward to subsequent rounds of funding to help ramp up reforestation across America’s landscapes.

American Forests has been on the forefront of the REPLANT Act, passed in November’s infrastructure bill, to permanently remove the cap on the U.S. Forest Service’s Reforestation Trust Fund. With a National Forest System planting and maintenance backlog of more than 4 million acres, the REPLANT Act has been urgently needed, and today’s investments and Reforestation Strategy arrive not a moment too soon. We’re heartened to see the REPLANT Act in action, with robust allocations across priority landscapes to get trees planted where they’re needed most, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the U.S. Forest Service as they implement this funding and strategy to benefit America’s forests.