By Keelin Arseneault, Policy Intern

Forest with lake and mountains
Credit: Chuck Fazio, Artist-in-Residence.

Following the recent Iowa Caucus and with the presidential election drawing nearer, staying updated on the candidates’ viewpoints is essential to being well informed. At American Forests, we work to emphasize the significance of forests and their role in the health of the planet. Here, we examine some of the leading candidates’ campaigns, regarding their perspectives on the management of public lands, climate change and the economy, to consider how forests could be involved in these plans to improve our country’s wellbeing.

Leading Democratic Candidates

The two frontrunners for the Democratic Party nominee are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT). Both candidates have formulated in-depth plans that could benefit our forests.

Ms. Clinton has demonstrated her support for making an effort to curtail climate change overall, while also acting to specifically protect America’s public lands. For example, as the senator from New York, she was part of a bipartisan coalition to defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge against oil drilling. An important goal found in Clinton’s climate change plan is to “Renew our shared commitment to the conservation of our disappearing lands, waters, and wildlife, to the preservation of our history and culture, and to expanding access to the outdoors for all Americans.” Forests are part of these disappearing lands. They act as a vital source of clean water and habitat for wildlife, both topics which this goal mentions. This general objective to protect our environment overall is outlined effectively, but could also refer to forests as a crucial aspect of the environment in need of protection due to their major contribution to the quality of our public lands.

Senator Sanders has also shown his concern regarding climate change and taken action against it. Recently, he co-sponsored the Keep It in the Ground Act to prohibit future fossil fuel leases on public lands. In Sanders’ climate change plan, the Senator shapes a clear goal to protect public lands, including forests. According to his campaign, “Conservation of our public lands such as our National Parks and Forests are an American tradition and a vehicle for economic growth. Our conserved public land also serves an important role in not only preventing climate change but also in mitigating the catastrophic effects of climate change…” Senator Sanders points out that he understands the specific importance of the wellbeing of our national parks and forests to the health of the environment in which we live. The Senator has also made the commitment to ensure that Americans have access to both urban and rural green spaces. This goal is shared by American Forests as well, which is deeply involved in urban forest work to provide more green space in city environments through its programs, like Community ReLeaf.

Leading Republican Candidates

The frontrunners of the Iowa Caucus for the Republicans were Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), businessman Donald Trump and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). These candidates have not framed climate change as one of their main campaign issues, but there is room for the role of forests in their goals for the presidency as well.

Senator Cruz, Senator Rubio and Mr. Trump are all focused on the importance of a sturdy economy and creating jobs in America. Cruz’s campaign states, “Jobs, growth, and opportunity will reignite promise for millions of American families…”  A recently published report found that the combined value of outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation annually generates at least $1.7 trillion in economic activity, supports 12.8 million jobs and brings in $211 billion in tax revenue. As the report notes, “this sector of the U.S. economy is larger than the U.S. auto and pharmaceutical industries combined.” Protecting and restoring our forests will ensure on-going economic and environmental viability for our communities. Forests and public land management are also a source of important jobs in America, and forests provide numerous other economic benefits such as clean water and green infrastructure, which protects our urban development, therefore, contributing to economic growth. The economic benefits of forests in America are truly worth considering.

The outcome of the presidential election may be uncertain for now, but something we can be certain of is the necessity of forests for the wellbeing of our people and planet. Learn more about the many benefits of forests here, and join American Forests in our mission to protect them.

Southwick Associates, “The Combined Value of Outdoor Recreation, Natural Resource Conservation, and Historical Preservation, 2013,” April 8, 2013.