If we’re going to spend a fortune, let’s spend it on a real public benefit.
The Boone and Crockett Club (B&C) has taken note of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and they have an important message for Congress: Federal lands count as infrastructure, too. What’s more, those lands need some urgent TLC to protect them from forest fires and other threats. B&C just released a new fact sheet explaining why America should spend $45 billion for forest management and restoration on federal lands over the next decade.
The U.S. Forest Service has over 80 million acres of land at moderate to high risk from catastrophic fire. There are millions of acres in need of reforestation when high-intensity fires reduce the potential for natural regeneration. Because President Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes the charge to “Maximize the resilience of land and water resources to protect communities and the environment,” says B&C, forest management needs a big stimulus, too.
Towards that end, Colorado’s Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act that would address these forest management funding needs; his state was one of several that witnessed unprecedented damage during the devastating 2020 fire season.
“Restoration and management of America’s national forests is an investment in our natural infrastructure that protects our communities, municipal water supplies, and fish and wildlife habitat – and provides natural climate solutions. These projects also deliver jobs to American workers in communities across the country,” commented Club President Jim Arnold. “The Boone and Crockett Club calls on Congress to make an investment of $40 billion in federal forest management and $5 billion in reforestation over the next 10 years to make our forests more resilient and reduce our risk of catastrophic wildfires.”
Active forest management such as harvesting trees, thinning dead and dying trees, creating fuel breaks, prescribed and managed burns, and creating defensible spaces are all effective tools to reduce wildfire threats while also improving habitat and helping to sequester carbon. In addition, the lumber produced by these forest management efforts will lock up carbon in long-lasting wood products and create better growing conditions for the next stand of trees, which will sequester even more carbon.
At the same time, there are estimates that over 11 million acres of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands are in need reforestation. Failure to reforest these acres will create millions of acres of brushfields, which can be lower quality habitat and are vulnerable to future reburns. Active reforestation of these lands can also help sequester more than 16 million tons of carbon per year.
“Working collaboratively through a sustained investment in shared stewardship with states, local communities, and private landowners over the next 10 years can begin restoring our forests and watershed health, while protecting our communities, providing jobs, and improving biodiversity,” concluded Arnold. “The Boone and Crockett Club strongly supports Senator Michael Bennet’s Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act and asks Congress to act swiftly on bipartisan legislation that will provide significant funding for forest management as part of any federal infrastructure package that moves forward.”