WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and U.S. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) on Thursday introduced the Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees Act — the REPLANT Act — to help the U.S. Forest Service plant 1.2 billion trees on national forests and create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
“I am pleased to join my colleagues in the Senate and House in introducing this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to address the reforestation needs within our national forests,” said Portman in a news release. “This legislation provides a wide range of benefits, including improving our environment by sequestering carbon dioxide, reinvigorating ecosystems, and supporting wildlife that depend on healthy forests, while also creating nearly 49,000 jobs and expanding recreation opportunities on national forestland.”
From destructive wildfires to invasive pests and disease, national forests across the country are in desperate need of reforestation efforts. The demand for reforestation has vastly outpaced the current funding available, which has contributed to a backlog of nearly 2 million acres in need of restoration. Each year, only 15 percent of the national forest tree planting backlog is addressed.
The REPLANT Act quadruples investments to support reforestation projects on national forests, according to the news release. The bill removes 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.
The bill only uses funds that are already being collected through tariffs on foreign wood products – it does not change the list of products, increase the tariffs, or use taxpayer funds.
The bill also directs the Forest Service to develop a 10-year plan and cost estimate to address the backlog of replanting needs on national forest land by 2031. It also prioritizes land in need of reforestation due to natural disasters that are unlikely to naturally regrow on their own.
The REPLANT Act will help reforest 4.1 million acres by planting 1.2 billion trees over the next 10 years. Planting these trees will help sequester 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in a decade, which is equivalent to avoiding the use of 8.5 billion gallons of gasoline, the release stated.
Reforestation also improves soil health and protects wildlife habitats for hunting and fishing. It also strengthens our economy by creating jobs. A report completed by American Forests found that the REPLANT Act would create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next 10 years.