Investing in #Forests4Climate
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).
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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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
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.Learn more
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.Learn more
Scale up controlled fire to prevent intense, dangerous wildfire
North America's Indigenous communities have known for centuries that setting moderate fires protects and rejuvenates the land and prevents intense, dangerous wildfire. Controlled fires clear overgrown brush, weed out small and unhealthy trees, and reduce dry, flammable fuels that feed a fire to excess. Scientific models can now identify high-hazard areas with high fuel loads to help foresters target those landscapes and prevent fires from spiraling beyond suppression.Learn more
Accelerate preventative action in near-urban landscapes
An estimated 50 million homes are currently in the wildland-urban interface in the U.S., a number increasing by 1 million houses every three years . Years of catastrophic fires have crystallized the need for active forest management and fire resilience practices. Creating fire-resilient forests in areas surrounding human development reduces risk to human lives and property, ensures the longevity of water and other essential resources, and supports the sustainability of forest products.Learn more
Broaden natural forest resilience with climate-smart strategies
Scientists and foresters have identified a suite of climate-smart techniques, such as forest thinning, prescribed burning practices, climate-resilient seed collection and cluster planting, that can make forests more resilient to fire, drought, pests and disease. Climate-smart planning also relies on shared stewardship models, in which organizations join forces and work across jurisdictional lines to manage wildfire and protect large forest landscapes and watersheds.Learn more
Extend scientific assessment of burned areas to allocate effective treatments
Severely burned forests may not regenerate naturally and risk a permanent shift to a landscape of highly flammable grass and shrubs. This leaves communities vulnerable to landslides and offers little of the benefits to wildlife, water and climate that a healthy forest provides. Post-fire restoration assessments can help foresters target data-driven restoration treatments and prioritize revegetation in wildfire scars that cannot naturally regenerate.Learn more
Step up climate-smart reforestation techniques
The climate crisis is taking a toll on forests. With our forests increasingly at risk, the way we manage and restore these landscapes needs to evolve. Depending on the site, climate-smart reforestation tactics include planting species-diverse mixes of native trees in varying densities where they will thrive in the future, removing invasive species and other plants that compete with seedlings, setting controlled burns, and selectively thinning overcrowded forests.Learn more
Fast-track growth along the reforestation pipeline
Tree nurseries in the U.S. are not equipped to keep up with growing reforestation demands. The sudden demands for seedlings after extreme wildfire seasons and weather events are already leading to serious undersupply.
Scaling up reforestation requires stable market demand for nurseries and skilled workforce training to source climate-resilient seed stock; collect, process and grow seeds; and conduct outplanting, site prep and post-planting monitoring.Learn more
Promote and support private landowner forestry
Private landowners control the largest amount of forested land in the U.S. Providing voluntary incentives via a trusted set of programs for families and disadvantaged landowners can reduce barriers to utilizing climate-smart forestry and land stewardship practices. Solutions must support the needs of landowners, including economic viability.Learn more
Advance tree planting and protection in agricultural landscapes
Silvopasture is the practice of integrating trees in pasturelands. The promising climate gains from silvopasture can complement existing grazing operations. Adopted more widely in Europe, silvopasture can help farmers and ranchers diversify their income streams and provides beneficial shade and additional feedstock for pasture animals. Scaling up adoption in the U.S. will require technical assistance for landowners to implement at scale.Learn more
Boost research and markets for wood innovation
Climate solutions can be creative. Low-value wood materials from wildfire management efforts such as thinning can be transformed into inventive wood products such as biochar or nano cellulose additions to concrete. This opens possibilities for greener building materials that keep the carbon stored in that wood from reentering the atmosphere. These bills earmark funding for research, incentives and market development wood innovation.Learn more
Expand forest protection from permanent conversion and loss
America's forests and forest products together capture and store enough carbon to offset approximately 17% of the nation's annual carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels . Yet land conversion and climate-driven threats such as disease, pests and drought are rapidly depleting crucial forest land. This funding will help support active, generational stewardship to ensure healthy forests continue to capture and store vast quantities of carbon.Learn more
Bolster old-growth forest protection and management
One study of U.S. national forests across the West found that its most ancient trees, just 3% of the total, contain a stunning 42% of carbon stored in these forests. Saving old-growth forests requires more than basic protections. These iconic trees are succumbing to wildfire. The 2020 Castle Fire in California, for example, destroyed between 7,500 and 10,600 sequoias with trunks larger than 4 feet. These irreplaceable ecosystems must be managed and protected to foster resilience in the face of climate change.Learn more