July 29, 2021
In response to the inclusion of the REPLANT Act within the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework just introduced in the U.S. Senate, American Forests President and Chief Executive Officer Jad Daley issued the following statement:
“America’s national forests, roughly one-quarter of our forested lands, are the beating heart of our green infrastructure, cleaning our air and water, stabilizing our climate, and providing natural security for people and wildlife. As with our nation’s other deteriorating infrastructure, we must invest immediately in repairing ongoing damage to these priceless lands in order to avoid catastrophic community losses when reforestation is delayed after wildfire, drought and other disasters.
“The bipartisan infrastructure legislation released today in the U.S. Senate represents a dramatic step to secure the lasting investment capital we need to restore and maintain the natural infrastructure values of our national forests. The legislative package includes the REPLANT Act, which will provide dedicated, permanent funding to enable the U.S. Forest Service to catch up and keep up with reforestation needs of our national forests.
“This has new urgency with climate change. Climate-fueled western wildfires in 2020 added more than a million acres to the backlog of national forest waiting to be reforested, a backlog that has now reached 4 million acres — an area larger than the state of Connecticut — with no end in sight. That means more and more national forest that will need to be replanted in the future.
“These damaged lands imperil our communities and our way of life. When burned-over forests are not able to regrow on their own, an increasingly common occurrence in this era of climate-fueled wildfires, these lands are left unable to provide the vital carbon sequestration, water filtration, fish and wildlife habitat or public recreation supplied by healthy and resilient forests. Even more concerning, we are increasingly seeing communities put at risk when burn scars are not reforested, triggering dangerous floods and mudslides that shut down critical access roads and foul public water sources.
“That’s why it is so important the bipartisan negotiators, led by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), have embraced the bipartisan REPLANT Act as part of our national infrastructure investment. The REPLANT Act removes an outdated cap on the federal Reforestation Trust Fund to provide the U.S. Forest Service with sufficient funding to plant and grow 1.2 billion trees per decade — enough to clear the backlog of national forests waiting to be reforested, and to keep up into the future. This investment will also support nearly 49,000 jobs each decade, primarily in rural communities.
“Reforestation is just one part of the forest stewardship we must ramp-up to keep our forests healthy and resilient in a changing climate. That is why we are grateful that the inclusion of REPLANT is paired with additional significant investments in forest management, including wildfire risk reduction. Together, these investments reflect a serious and much needed shot in the arm for our forests and communities.
“With over a century of commitment to our national forests, American Forests is grateful to the architects of the bipartisan package, and to the original sponsors of the REPLANT Act — including Sen. Portman, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) — for this bold investment in healthy and resilient national forests that in turn will help keep our nation healthy and resilient.”