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More Trees, Please

By Tom Richardson

I think it’s safe to assume that most people who watch, follow, or read Explore New England appreciate trees. What’s not to like (unless one falls on your house or you hate raking leaves each fall)? Trees sequester carbon. Trees cool urban areas. Trees provide oxygen and clean the air. Trees improve water quality and fish habitat by preventing runoff. Trees increase biodiversity. The list goes on and on, which is why we should all support the “Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees Act,” known as the REPLANT Act.

Reintroduced to Congress in March 2021, the REPLANT Act would help the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) plant 1.2 billion trees on 4.1 million acres of national forest over the next 10 years, while creating nearly 49,000 jobs in the process. The new trees will sequester 75 million metric tons of carbon in a decade—the equivalent to reducing the use of gasoline by 8.5 billion gallons, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry. The trees will also provide critical habitat for countless species of fish, birds, insects, and mammals.

The Nature Conservancy points out that “USFS estimates that 1.3 million acres of national forest land need reforestation, including lands that experienced wildfires and other major disturbances. Despite this need, current funding only addresses about 15 percent of the reforestation backlog every year.”

The bill would remove the current funding cap of $30 million per year in the Reforestation Trust Fund, making an average of $123 million annually available for reforestation efforts. Only funds that are already being collected through tariffs on foreign wood products would be used.

Similar to the Great American Outdoors Act, which passed with broad bipartisan support in 2020, the REPLANT Act requires the USFS to address the backlog of reforestation work needed on national forest lands by 2031. It also prioritizes land in need of reforestation due to natural disasters that are unlikely to regrow on their own. 

Thus far, some 50 major organizations and businesses have signed on in support of the bill. We hope you’ll contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to do the same.

 

The full text of the bill can be found HERE. A summary of the bill can be found HERE.