The effects of climate change are impacting us and our planet every day — from devastating floods and destruction of lands, to rising temperatures, and raging wildfires. However, where there is heartbreak and climate anxiety, there are also helpers giving us hope.
A large-scale win for reforestation efforts, the Biden Administration just announced plans to plant over 1 billion new trees across millions of acres of burned and dead woodlands in the Western part of the country.
Ecologists and foresters are battling the increasing brunt of wildfires and insect infestations, leaving the government overwhelmed by the need to plant new trees, as forests struggle to naturally regenerate.
According to NPR, there is a backlog of 4.1 million acres in need of replanting, meaning the U.S. Department of Agriculture will need to quadruple the number of tree seedlings produced in nurseries to meet forestation needs.
The Forest Service (TFS) will scale up its replanting efforts from 60,000 acres a year, to about 400,000 acres.
“Forests are a powerful tool in the fight against climate change,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “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.”
Last year, Congress passed bipartisan legislation directing the Forest Service to plant 1.2 billion trees over the next decade. TFS will spend more than $100 million this year on reforestation work, and spending is expected to increase following these federal appropriations.
“Our reforestation efforts on national forests only increase through strong partnerships with other federal agencies, tribes, state and local governments, communities and organizations,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said in a statement. “We recognize that successfully increasing reforestation on national forests is dependent on these strong partnerships.”
Why is this good news?
This story gives us hope because it shows that the government is willing to take (bipartisan!) action to protect the planet. The world desperately needs more trees, and committing money, resources, and federal support to reforestation efforts is one step toward caring for the health and safety of Americans and the land we occupy.
(It’s important to note that most Americans live on stolen land, and Indigenous peoples have long been the guardians and protectors of the forests we all know and love. To learn more about the land you reside on and how you can support Native tribes in your area, check out this digital map of Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages.)
What's the nuance?
We don't always love to cover political "pledges" because too often, that's the end of the story. Sometimes a failure to keep a promise is outside of political leader's control and sometimes it's a cynical lie to gain short-term favor from press and constituents.
We're choosing to cover this story because the funding for this initiative was already allocated within last year's successful infrastructure bill, so it's unlikely to be derailed by an act (or lack of action) from Congress.
And while the Forest Service will need to scale up their tree planting efforts, and seed and sapling supply chains will need to scale up, there's no indication they won't be able to keep up with the increased demand.
The other nuance worth mentioning: This action alone won't solve climate change. There's much more that can and should be done by the federal government. But every individual action step within that broader solution should be celebrated, encouraged, and covered.
Does planting trees actually help fight climate change?
The short answer is: yes! Trees are one of the most important elements of our environment, cleaning the air we breathe, filtering the water we drink, and providing habitats for 80% of the globe’s biodiversity.
One Tree Planted also reminds us that forests provide jobs to over 1.6 billion people, absorb harmful carbon from the atmosphere, and are vital to the makeup of 25% of all medicines.
More trees means more clean air and water, strengthened biodiversity, incredible social impact, and healthier people and planet.
What can you do to help protect forests?
This news shows us that federal action can indeed be taken to support the natural world. Continue to advocate for climate legislation by contacting your representatives and encouraging the media to responsibly cover climate change. (Hot tip: we’d recommend this article on the secrets to passing climate policy for some good talking points.)
Personal responsibility is certainly not the only way to save the planet, but our individual actions do matter! Smokey Bear has some great tips on preventing wildfires in your area.
Another great way to plant trees is to switch your default search engine from Google to Ecosia, which uses the money it makes from ads to plant trees. (And yes, they’re legit.)
You can also donate your dollars to support organizations outside of government agencies working on reforestation efforts across the country. We’re big fans of Cambium Carbon, Reforestation Hub, One Tree Planted, and American Forests.