April 19, 2021
American Forests President and Chief Executive Officer Jad Daley issued the following statement in response to the introduction of the Trillion Trees Act in the United States House of Representatives today:
“We are running out of time to slow climate change and to prepare our communities for current and rapidly increasing climate-related threats related to intense heat waves, devastating storms and severe wildfires. America’s trees and forests are a powerful solution for climate action and climate justice, equally so in urban areas and large natural landscapes. In fact, our forests already capture nearly 15 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels annually, and scientists widely agree that increased forest conservation and reforestation are essential components of any effective climate response.
“To that end, American Forests continues to work with bipartisan congressional champions of forest-climate solutions to advance legislation – including the bipartisan REPLANT Act, the Climate Stewardship Act and the 21st Century Conservation Corps Act – that will provide for the robust investments needed to match the full scope and urgency of the climate problem. The Trillion Trees Act, introduced today by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and other cosponsors, touches on a number of critical forest-climate policy and funding areas and represents a marked improvement from a previously introduced version of this bill. That said, this proposal still falls significantly short in key ways. American Forests is not able to support the Trillion Trees Act.
“In America’s cities, vast tree inequities are a life-or-death matter for lower-income neighborhoods, where a systemic lack of tree cover – and the natural cooling and air purification it provides – is responsible for rising levels of heat-related illness and death. Unfortunately, the Trillion Trees Act would provide only minimal new programmatic resources for climate justice, health equity, carbon sequestration and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in these underserved areas. Moreover, it would place unnecessary new limits on potential future funding growth for urban and community forestry at a time when urgently-needed major funding increases are being considered. This legislation also would erode the integrity of core federal laws to protect the health of our forests, including the National Environmental Policy Act, and would establish redundant new federal bureaucracies that could distract from important current efforts such as those of the existing One Trillion Trees Interagency Council.
“Other provisions of the bill are far more positive, such as the proposed major increase in funding and loan guarantees for nursery production, addressing a significant barrier to climate-responsive reforestation at scale. We urge Congress to consider these specific items in the context of a more comprehensive climate commitment. And while this particular bill is not the right way forward, we appreciate the clear interest it demonstrates in forests as a climate change solution. We look forward to helping coalesce strong bipartisan support to enact legislation to deliver the needed federal investments for true natural climate solutions. We don’t have a moment to lose.”