Almost six months ago, the American Forests team and I gathered around our respective devices watching C-SPAN to capture the moment the infrastructure bill became law. The game-changing legislation contains billions in forest-climate provisions, including the historic REPLANT Act. The REPLANT Act was conceived and authored with help from American Forests so our nation can tackle one of the most significant challenges facing our Western forests — the rapidly accelerating loss of forested landscapes from severe, climate-driven wildfire events. Without reforestation, we risk leaving millions of acres on our national forests as lingering burn scars. This Arbor Day, we’re celebrating the REPLANT Act — which will enable the U.S. Forest Service to finally catch up and keep up with reforesting burned areas and other damaged lands on our national forests — along with the four bipartisan Congressional champions whose leadership has made this possible.
The REPLANT Act will transform the U.S. Forest Service, permanently removing the cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund. This will enable the Forest Service to access almost four times the annual funding for reforestation than they could previously, and potentially even more over time. And all of these funds already exist as a result of U.S. timber exports, so the REPLANT Act opens up this funding without additional cost to the American taxpayer. Ultimately, the REPLANT Act will facilitate the planting of 1.2 billion — yes, with a b — trees.
We received bipartisan support for the REPLANT Act in both the House and the Senate since this bill’s inception, as both parties realized the urgency of reforesting our landscapes. In the months since the REPLANT Act was passed as part of the infrastructure bill, we’ve continued to work side by side with the U.S. Forest Service to expedite delivery of this legislation onto America’s landscapes.
This Arbor Day, we’re celebrating the leadership of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) for their leadership in delivering REPLANT for America’s forests. This week, I was able to continue the REPLANT celebration, meeting with these bipartisan cosponsors to thank them in person for championing America’s forests, and I presented them with the 2022 Forest Resilience Champion Award — our organization’s singular annual honor for leadership to secure the health and resilience of America’s forests.
With this year’s award tied to the passage of the REPLANT Act, we are recognizing an accomplishment by these legislators that will ripple well beyond just this year into the decades to come: permanently securing the ability to restore our national forests in the face of wildfire and other threats driven by climate change. Although I wasn’t able to meet with Senator Stabenow as she readied for a farm bill listening session, I do want to acknowledge her vital leadership as chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in giving additional credence to the necessity of the REPLANT Act.
These Congressional champions have delivered a lasting measure to secure the legacy of our forests, rivaling the most significant policy achievements that American Forests has helped to champion in our 147-year history. It is a dramatic shift to know that America will have the resources and tools in place to keep our 193 million acres of national forests healthy and resilient into the future. This Arbor Day, at the end of Earth Month, I can think of nothing greater to celebrate.