If passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, signed into law by Pres. Joe Biden, the Act 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 in National Forests.
U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) joined senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA.) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) in introducing the bill, which is supported by over 50 organizations and companies, including California Forestry Association, Forest Landowners Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of State Foresters, and Society of American Foresters.
The ACT would also create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next ten years.
“Wildfires devastated millions of acres in California last year, and the Forest Service is facing an enormous backlog of lands that need to be restored,” said LaMalfa in a statement. “The REPLANT Act will assist with getting burned areas replanted in the North State and across the West. We cannot leave our public lands a virtual moonscape that creates the brush conditions that lead to the next terrible fire. Replanting our damaged forests protects our watersheds and begins to restore wildlife habitats and recreation. This is one step needed to protect our forests, but we also must improve our active forest management to reduce the risk of these massive forest fires.”
Lawmakers said that replanting national forests would support the country’s hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation economies and be part of the solution to the climate crisis.
“Planting trees is a cost-effective way to draw carbon out of the air, restore our public lands, and create jobs,” Stabenow said.
In a joint press release, the five co-sponsors of the bill said this type of reforestation is needed to protect communities from post-wildfire mudslides, help sequester carbon emissions, and provide critical wildlife habitats, improve downstream drinking water quality, and restore public lands for generations to come.
This bill has broad bipartisan, including a diverse group of stakeholders who are on the ground replanting national forests.
The Act would direct the Forest Service to develop a 10-year plan and cost estimate to address the backlog of replanting national forest land needs by 2031. It also prioritizes land in need of reforestation due to natural disasters that are unlikely to regrow on their own naturally.