Investing in #Forests4Climate

Congress made sweeping investments in our forests this year.
We crunched the numbers.
The potential carbon benefits are big.

This is
An American Forests Data Short
5 minute read
A man stands with arms outstretched in a hopeful gesture at a Global Climate Action Summit tree planting.

Planting at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Image: American Forests

It's a new and hopeful era for American forestry.

In the past year, Congress passed both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA). These groundbreaking bills invest an unprecedented $568 billion to tackle climate change, putting the United States on track to reduce carbon emissions by at least 40% over the next decade (from 2005 levels).

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Together, these monumental climate bills dedicate a whopping $14.1 billion for forestry, reaching from our hardworking city street trees to the iconic forests across our public lands. The additional funding for forestry from the IIJA and IRA amount to the largest and most comprehensive investment ever for forest-climate solutions.

Want to dig into the details?

Each bill contains a slew of forestry-related provisions that funnel investment into critical forestry programs. These investments will help maximize the natural ability of forests and forest products to capture and store carbon and slow climate change.

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Forestry Program

Carbon Capture & Storage

And let's not overlook the massive benefits to our communities that are not captured by this forest-carbon analysis: thousands of new jobs; life-saving mitigation of extreme heat, air pollution and flooding; stronger community resilience to extreme weather; and advancements for public health and equity.

Here's how each forestry program's funding allocation compares to its carbon impact.

Note that some programs, such as Urban Forestry, have a smaller carbon impact relative to the delivery of other crucial benefits to our communities.

In total, we estimate that the funding in these bills can help plant, maintain and protect 3.2 billion trees, protect and restore 14.4 million acres of forest, and capture and store 322 million tons of CO2 equivalent in our forests and forest products by 2030.

So how much carbon does that amount to?

more than X

the 2020 CO2e emissions
of NYC offset

Homes' annual energy use
emissions offset

Gasoline-powered passenger vehicles
removed from the road annually

Trash bags of waste recycled
instead of landfilled

Here's how we can put this monumental investment into action to maximize climate benefits from our forests:

Our experts say it's not just about planting trees. Climate-smart forestry is about the longevity and resilience of forests and people. Let's take a look at the highest-impact opportunities to get the biggest bang for our buck from this massive investment in our forests.


Plant in neighborhoods with the greatest need with the help of Tree Equity Score

This unprecedented funding will support planting and maintaining a game-changing 33.2 million trees.

Where we plant matters. American Forests created Tree Equity Score to provide a national, science-based standard to help cities and towns prioritize investment in trees. Tree Equity Score focuses on areas with the greatest need to advance climate justice and address damaging environmental inequities such as air pollution and extreme heat.

Learn more

Maintain existing urban trees to maximize their life-saving benefits

Trees are critical infrastructure in cities. Urban forests account for almost 20% of the sequestration of carbon in U.S. forests and reduce home heating and cooling costs by nearly $8 billion nationally each year . Yet the projected loss of tree canopy in urban areas is 8.3% by 2060 . This funding can help cities retain the critical services of the existing urban tree canopy and reduce household energy consumption and utilities costs.

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Scale up the urban forestry workforce

There is a labor shortage in the tree-care industry. Planting and caring for trees requires skilled workers. There is an annual need for approximately 8,300 tree-care workers nationwide. Creating Tree Equity creates tree-care jobs that are critical for delivering the benefits of a robust urban tree canopy. These jobs can benefit local residents, in particular through expansion of training, job creation and job retention for disadvantaged communities and populations.

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i Joel N Clark / American Forests
An urban tree care professional performs maintenance work on an urban tree in a downtown area.
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American Forests creates healthy and resilient forests, from cities to large natural landscapes, that deliver essential benefits for climate, people, water and wildlife. We advance our mission through forestry innovation, place-based partnerships to plant and restore forests, and movement building.

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Carbon impact analysis by Kendall DeLyser

Article and visualizations by Julia Twichell
Urban Forestry Carbon Impact Estimates
Urban tree planting and maintenance carbon value estimated utilizing literature values of carbon storage, planting cost, maintenance cost and avoided energy emissions per tree (Nowak et al. (2013), Nowak et al. (2017), Nowak & Greenfield (2018), Nowak et al. (2021), Kroeger et al. (2018)). Avoided energy emissions benefits phased out to meet 2035 clean energy goal, following EPRI (2021).
Wildfire Resilience Carbon Impact Estimates
Funding assigned to fire risk reduction and vegetation management includes restoration/reforestation activities, fuels reduction treatments and avoided wildfire emissions. Actual impacts may be greater when including additional wood product and substitution benefits from use of restoration byproducts. Please consider these topline numbers using available information. These carbon emissions projections are derived by the U.S. Forest Service from RPA imputation modeling, including RPA forest dynamics (including forest age, density, growth rates, fire and removals), land use and global trade models. Stochasticity is built into some of these parameters, so the model is ideally run many times to allow the most robust numbers (average, or central tendency) to clearly emerge. This is in addition to necessary assumptions made in the model parameterization and investment application.
Wildfire Recovery Carbon Impact Estimates
Carbon value estimated utilizing EVALIDator C Estimates model developed by American Forests utilizing forest carbon stocks and fluxes from USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis; reforestation costs and needs from U.S. Forest Service; estimated grant cost-share from Forest Legacy Program.
Forest Protection Carbon Impact Estimates
Conservation easement carbon value estimated utilizing EVALIDator C Estimates model developed by American Forests utilizing forest carbon stocks and fluxes from USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis, percent forest loss during conversion ( NLCD, 2011) and five-year average program cost per acre from the Forest Legacy Program. Assumes 90% of FLP easements are additional, meaning forest would not have been conserved without the easement - carbon benefits are scaled accordingly.

Old-growth inventory and protection activities are assumed to largely consist of reducing fire risk and supporting ecosystem resilience (i.e. hazardous fuel reductions and vegetation management activities). Carbon estimation assumptions same as in the Wildfire Resilience section above.
Private & Working Forests Carbon Impact Estimates
All EQIP, CSP and RCPP (collectively, NRCS) program dollars budgeted under the IRA are assumed to be spent on Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry (CSAF) conservation practices, as specified for Fiscal Year 2022. The greenhouse gas benefits provided by each forestry practice (tree/shrub establishment and silvopasture) are estimated using FIA data and literature estimates from Eagle et al. (2012). The per acre cost of each practice is based on California EQIP and CSP payment schedules (where relevant, cost per tree/shrub or linear feet are converted to acres). We specify five categories of conservation practices and assume the following budget allocation by category: 20% on cover crops, 10% on tree planting practices, 20% on nitrogen management, 10% on livestock (anaerobic digesters) and 40% on other soil health, grazing and pasture, and wildlife habitat practices. We assume conservation practices will continue on enrolled acres after the initial year of enrollment, but at discounted levels. These so-called "conservation legacy effects" are also specified by category: 25% for cover crops, 75% for tree planting practices, 10% for nitrogen management, 96% for livestock, 75% for other soil health, grazing and pasture, and wildlife habitat practices. We assume conservation legacy effects are constant for five years after the initial year of enrollment and then decline exponentially on an annual basis.

Private landowner incentive benefits are calculated based on a payment of $13/tonne CO2e (estimate gathered from Trove Research and University College London 2021, EDF 2018, Ecosystem Services Marketplace 2021) to lands with higher than baseline stocks; average participant carbon stocks, growth rates, market dynamics and private sector engagement from American Forest Foundation Family Forest Carbon Program and USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis.
Wood Innovation Carbon Impact Estimates
Wood innovation projections developed based upon literature values of embodied, stored and avoided emissions as well as projected market growth, additional to existing projections in the absence of IRA and IIJA investments (FPInnovations (2020), AWC.CWC (2020), Puettman et al. (2018), Nepal et al. (2016)).
Carbon Equivalencies
Carbon Equivalencies were calculated with the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. New York City 2020 carbon emissions were reported on by the city in their 2021 study, Pathways to Carbon-Neutral NYC.
All content 2022 American Forests. Please acknowledge American Forests in the use and distribution of this product.
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