U.S. SENATE News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate to introduce the Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees Act, known as the REPLANT Act, to help the U.S. Forest Service plant 1.2 billion trees on national forests and create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
From destructive wildfires to invasive pests and disease, national forests across the country are in desperate need of reforestation efforts. The demand for reforestation has vastly outpaced the current funding available, which has contributed to a backlog of nearly 2 million acres in need of restoration. Each year, only 15 percent of the national forest tree planting backlog is addressed.
“Our National Forests are a real treasure, but they desperately need our help so they can keep delivering benefits such as clean drinking water, carbon sequestration, and outdoor recreation,” Heinrich said. “Removing the arbitrary cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund will immediately allow us to put thousands of Americans to work replanting trees and restoring the health of our forests and watersheds.”
“The REPLANT Act goes a long way toward assuring a future forest for New Mexico,” said Kent Reid, PhD, Director of the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute. “It enables agencies to prioritize replanting of large areas that have been burned by fire, and recognizes the need for both encouraging natural regeneration and for paying attention to seed source and seed supply for forest tree species.”
“We are at a pivotal moment in time where we can make a huge impact on the battle against climate change. One of the greatest tools we have to fight this battle is through reforestation of disturbed lands such as those destroyed by forest fires. Therefore, it is critical that we invest in the reforestation pipeline to address the urgency and scale of the climate problem while simultaneously supporting water resources, forest products, wildlife habitat, recreation, job creation, and many other valuable resources forests provide,” said Owen Burney, PhD, Director of Reforestation and Associate Professor at New Mexico State University.
The REPLANT Act quadruples investments to support reforestation projects on national forests. The bill removes the current funding cap of $30 million per year in the Reforestation Trust Fund, making an average of $123 million annually available for reforestation in national forests. The bill only uses funds that are already being collected through tariffs on foreign wood products – it does not change the list of products, increase the tariffs, or use taxpayer funds.
The bill also directs the Forest Service to develop a 10-year plan and cost estimate to address the backlog of replanting needs on national forest land by 2031. It also prioritizes land in need of reforestation due to natural disasters that are unlikely to naturally regrow on their own.
The REPLANT Act will help reforest 4.1 million acres by planting 1.2 billion trees over the next 10 years. Planting these trees will help address the climate crisis by sequestering 758 million metric tons of carbon over their lifetimes, which is equivalent to avoiding the use of 85.3 billion gallons of gasoline. Reforestation also improves soil health and protects wildlife habitats for hunting and fishing. It also strengthens our economy by creating jobs. A report completed by American Forests found that the REPLANT Act would create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
The lead sponsors of the REPLANT Act are U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). This legislation is supported by leading national organizations and companies including American Forests, Trust for Public Land, BPC Action, The Forest Stewards Guild, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, The Longleaf Alliance, Evangelical Environmental Network, Green Forests Work, Lyme Timber, REI, Salesforce, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and many others.