Experts say planting trees and protecting old-growth forests are necessary parts of the fight against global climate change.
The Biden administration on Monday announced plans to plant more than 1 billion trees over the next decade as part of an effort to repair 4 million acres of national forest lands.
In a statement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that the reforestation process would be funded from the infrastructure law passed in 2021 and from the Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees (REPLANT) Act, which is a part of the law.
According to the statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that forests are a "powerful tool in the fight against climate change" and that "nurturing their natural regeneration and planting in areas with the most need is critical to mitigating the worst effects of climate change while also making those forests more resilient to the threats they face from catastrophic wildfire, historic drought, disease outbreaks and pest infestation."
The department noted: "Before the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and REPLANT, the Forest Service was only able to address about 6% of its post-wildfire reforestation needs. The REPLANT Act directs the Forest Service to plant more than a billion trees over the next decade, removes a cap of $30 million and is now expected to provide the agency significantly more resources every year to do so."
The issue of reforestation has become more important in recent years due to increased damage to forests from wildfires. After wildfires in California forests in 2021, more than 10,000 trees had to be removed and replaced.
Wildfires have become more prevalent in the United States and Europe, a phenomenon that has been traced to global temperature increases as a result of climate change. As the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases, temperatures rise and heat waves become more frequent. This leads to conditions that are more ripe for wildfires.
Researchers say that tree-planting is a significant way to fight climate change by sequestering carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, while noting that reforestation alone is not enough to counter the effects of a warming planet.
The administration has also worked to protect existing old-growth forests to help meet President Joe Biden's goals of cutting carbon emissions in the United States.
On April 22, celebrated as Earth Day, Biden signed an executive order that instructed federal agencies to collect data and enforce policies designed to shield old-growth forests on federal lands. In announcing that action, the White House noted, "America's forests are a key climate solution, absorbing carbon dioxide equivalent to more than 10% of U.S. annual greenhouse gas emissions."
The administration of former President Donald Trump had expressed public support for reforestation as well, but the actual planting of trees was hampered by Trump's own policies.
Politico noted in 2020 that most reforestation work is done by temporary workers from Mexico and South America during a six-month planting season beginning in October. Most of the H-2B visas such workers need to enter the country were suspended that year under Trump administration policies.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.