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What they’re saying about forestry investments in the Build Back Better Budget

WASHINGTON - The Build Back Better Budget contains comprehensive resources for our nation’s forests, including historic investments in the ability of public and private forestland to provide cleaner air and water, sequester carbon, recover from wildfire, and support the communities and Americans that depend on them, say hundreds of forestry stakeholders and environmental advocates across the country. In letters submitted to Congressional leadership, these advocates point to the impact of funding for forestry programs as a key element in the process of addressing the climate crisis.

“Trees are some of our greatest tools to fight the climate crisis,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and the architect of the incentives and programs for agriculture, forestry, research, and rural communities in the reconciliation package. “These advocates support the Build Back Better Budget because it makes a crucial down payment to help our forests recover from historic wildfires and boost the ability of our public and private forestland to reverse the effects of the climate crisis.”

“This historic investment will create good-paying jobs across the Mountain West, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and safeguard our communities and our water supplies,” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources.

“We applaud the Administration for including robust investments to help remedy these longstanding injustices in the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan,” said Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Rep. Donald McEachin, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. “As we consider historic investments using budget reconciliation, we must preserve those investments which are already included in the House’s Build Back Better Act and are critical for environmental justice communities, including … urban tree planting, equitable outdoor access and climate-smart forestry investments for underserved communities.”

“We have also included a historic investment that will allow USDA’s Forest Service to be more responsive and proactive in their efforts to mitigate the disastrous wildfire years that have ravaged our Western states and to work with their partners on the needs of state and private forests, including reaching out to underserved private forest landowners,” wrote Chairman David Scott of Georgia and his fellow Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.

“As western governors, we have seen firsthand the devastation that comes with climate change, and these impacts have captured national headlines throughout the unprecedented and now never-ending wildfire seasons, through intense droughts, flash floods, mudslides and myriad of other impacts endured by our communities and citizens,” wrote a coalition of Western U.S. governors, including Colorado’s Jared Polis, Gavin Newsom of California, Steve Sisolak of Nevada, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, and Oregon’s Kate Brown. “The investments contained in the proposed reconciliation packages aimed at our western states, communities and especially landscapes and ecosystems will have direct benefits in alleviating those attention grabbing disasters. As leaders of states where every dollar matters, we understand the pressures associated with trimming public expenditures and detailed fiscal responsibility. Yet these disasters and the impacts of climate change will only increase as our climate warms, and for the sake of our states, communities, lands and budgets; in this case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

“The current package of infrastructure and budget reconciliation legislation has shown that we can invest in climate solutions at a vast scale the same way we invest in other priorities — from the United States Treasury,” said American Forests President Jad Daley. “A climate crisis this dire deserves urgent investment just like a pandemic or a war or a crumbling bridge. And what a forest-climate investment plan Congress has laid out, perfectly aligned with the direction set by the Biden-Harris administration!”

“Wildfire is essential to many forest ecosystems in the United States, but the increasing frequency, size, and severity require significant action to sustain forests, protect the public, and prevent the conversion of forests from carbon sinks to sources of carbon emissions,” wrote a coalition of wildlife conservation groups including the National Wildlife Federation, Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited. Over the next decade we need to ramp up the pace and scale of fuel reduction and watershed health projects to treat an additional 20 million acres of National Forest System lands, and 30 million acres of other federal, state, tribal, and private lands. The reconciliation package makes that fiscal commitment.”

“The reconciliation package has the potential to protect and grow our forests in ways that will enhance their climate action contributions, building from the nearly 15 percent of our nation’s carbon dioxide emissions currently captured in our forests and forest products each year, as reported in the U.S. EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Investing in forests for climate action will also enhance their capacity to address other environmental and natural infrastructure needs, such as cleaning our air and water, lowering surface temperatures and energy use, and serving as a home to wildlife,” wrote the 78 members of the Forest Climate Working Group. “The budget reconciliation package stands as the most significant legislative action yet to leverage forests and forest products as a powerful nature-based solution to help combat climate change. The bill’s $40 billion dollars in forest-focused investments will dramatically bolster our sector’s ability to increase resilient carbon storage in America’s forests and forest products and better protect human and natural communities from climate impacts.”

“Bold action is needed to sustain forests, protect public safety, and prevent the conversion of forests from carbon sinks to carbon emission sources. The scale of wildfires and their community impacts far outpace current efforts to prevent them and mitigate the damage they cause,” wrote a coalition of forestry advocates, including the American Forests Foundation, National Association of State Foresters and Society of American Foresters. “The U.S. Forest Service researchers have identified the need to treat an additional 20 million acres of National Forest System lands, and an additional 30 million acres of other federal, state, tribal, and private lands to make significant progress in reducing extreme wildfire risk and building forest resilience.”

“From combating climate change and creating more equitable communities to improving infrastructure and expanding green jobs, our nation’s current and expanding 138 million acres of urban and community forests and trees are an essential piece of the equation,” wrote a broad coalition of regional and national urban and community forest advocates, including members of the Sustainable Urban Forestry Coalition. Furthermore, with climate impacts from extreme heat and air pollution rising, cities and towns are urgently setting new goals for expansion of tree cover to protect our most vulnerable populations. The bold investments proposed in the reconciliation bills—particularly from the House Agriculture Committee—represent unprecedented recognition and support for the multitude of scientifically proven social, economic, and environmental benefits provided by forests and trees across communities of all sizes.”

“Not only will these investments expand access and support local economies, but proper infrastructure investments will also rebuild recreation assets devastated by droughts and wildfires while making these assets and the public lands that house them more resilient to the ongoing effects of climate change. They will also help restore ecological integrity and conditions for at-risk species,” wrote the members of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.

“Nature plays a critical role in combating climate change, which is why Salesforce is committed to conserving, restoring and growing 100 million trees by 2030 in partnership with,” wrote Salesforce. “And is why the company also continues to advocate for investments in conservation, drought, and forestry programs that would sequester carbon emissions, enhance forestry management, and improve wildfire resilience and recovery.”

“Trees and green spaces are essential to maintaining healthy communities and ecosystems. Federal programs that support urban forestry and green space preservation are key to making these vulnerable communities more resilient to the climate crisis and building up the critical green infrastructure we need to take on climate change,” wrote the Sierra Club. “The Sierra Club urges Senators to maintain funding for these critical programs as they consider a final version of the package.”

“The scale and severity of wildfires – and their impact on communities – far outpace current efforts to prevent human-caused wildfires and mitigate wildfire damages,” wrote National Association of State Foresters President and and Connecticut State Forester Christopher Martin. “Without an unprecedented and sustained investment in coordinated wildland fire and forest management, wildfires will continue to plague the nation’s forests, destroy our cherished communities, and irrevocably alter American landscapes.”

“We appreciate the work of both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to address forest and watershed health. Efforts to improve the conditions of our forested lands are incredibly important,” wrote the National Water Resources Association’s Ian Lyle. “Healthy, working forests maximize the ability to sequester and store carbon, maintain watershed health and sustain critical ecosystems all while benefiting the economy. In order to protect water supply and improve forest health we ask you to ensure that vital USDA forest health funding is not reduced.”

“The current, disastrous drought coupled with damage from severe wildfires like California’s Dixie Fire and Oregon’s Bootleg Fire underscore the importance of accelerating restoration actions that reduce hazardous fuels on the landscape and improve overall forest and watershed health. These investments also directly benefit watersheds our communities and environment depend upon,” wrote the Western Water Infrastructure Coalition, comprising western resource conservation and agriculture advocates, including Environmental Defense Fund, California Farm Bureau, and Western Growers.

“This Reconciliation bill presents an historic opportunity to focus federal investments on climate mitigation and forest restoration and resilience objectives, especially those that help leverage private sector resources and markets,” wrote the American Forest Foundation and the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Network. “Putting resources toward proven programs that can reduce wildfire and sequester carbon, and that do not require extensive new rulemaking, will yield the fastest results.

“In various capacities, we have called on Congress to provide tens of billions of additional dollars over the next decade to restore our forests and make them more resilient to wildfire and mitigate the impact of climate change from rural and urban communities,” wrote a coalition of forest and environmental advocates, including American Forests, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Your package makes these investments and will allow the Forest Service and its non-Federal partners to accelerate the watershed and habitat restoration, research and development, and climate mitigation work that is long overdue.

“We appreciate that the Senate Agriculture Committee recognizes that working forests maximize the ability to sequester and store carbon, improve forest health and resilience, sustain important ecosystem benefits, and ultimately provide markets for renewable and sustainable building materials that store carbon in the built environment,” wrote the American Wood Council. “The funding provided in this Section will make important strides in advancing the necessary research for carbon accounting in the built environment and accelerating the broader adoption of innovative mass timber public/private projects across the country.

“The substantial investment in the Forest Legacy Program is a win-win for communities by bolstering rural economies with jobs in the woods and at local mills, protecting drinking water supplies, and increasing access to the outdoors,” said Lesley Kane Szynal, Chair of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. “In addition, funding forest conservation represents further progress toward meeting the moment of crisis we now find ourselves in, where opportunities to keep forests as forests, connect landscapes, and make communities more healthy and more resilient cannot be left on the table. We applaud both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees for their work on this important issue, and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure this critical investment remains in the final legislation,”

“As Congress negotiates the reconciliation legislation we urge them to ensure robust funding for forest conservation, including for the Forest Legacy Program. This critical investment in natural climate solutions not only improves climate resilience and carbon sequestration but also the U.S. economy and the local communities that depend on our forests for jobs and outdoor recreation,” said Tom Cors, Director of Government Relations for Lands, at The Nature Conservancy. The Forest Legacy Program has led to the protection of over 2.8 million acres of sustainable working forest lands, bringing together federal, state, and private partners to achieve the common goals of protecting and maintaining forest jobs, recreational access, wildlife habitat, and clean drinking water. We are committed to working with Congress to include this significant investment in forests and natural climate solutions in the final reconciliation bill.”

“We cannot miss this opportunity to secure additional investment for forest and agriculture conservation programs, as they are vital to our nation’s ecosystems and economies,” said Kelly Reed, Senior Vice President of Government Relations at The Conservation Fund. “We thank the Senate and House Agriculture Committees for their strong support of the Forest Legacy Program in the reconciliation bill, and we urge Congress to maintain these historic investments in the final legislation.”

“Across the country, The Trust for Public Land is working with communities, private landowners, and land managers to protect and preserve forestlands. Working forests play a critical role in absorbing carbon emissions to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. But, these forest conservation and recreation projects depend on funding from the Forest Legacy Program,” said Myke Bybee, Legislative Director at The Trust for Public Land. “We commend the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for their strong support of forestry and the Forest Legacy Program in the budget reconciliation bill. The American people are depending on these important programs to preserve, protect, and enjoy our forests now and for generations to come. The Forest Legacy Program enables innovative conservation solutions that bring communities together and deliver innumerable benefits: clean water, wildlife habitat, parks and trails, climate resilience, public health, and outdoor recreation for all Americans. We urge the Congress to include robust funding for these important forestry programs in the final reconciliation bill.”

“Protecting our state and private forests is key to expanding outdoor recreation access across the country and we applaud the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for their work to invest in our nation’s forests in the reconciliation bill. Increased funding for the Forest Legacy Program is an investment in our outdoor recreation infrastructure for hikers, bikers, hunters, boaters, snowmobilers and all those who enjoy the outdoors,” said Jess Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The forestry provisions in the reconciliation bill provide support for communities eager to increase recreation access and boost the growing $788 billion outdoor recreation economy that sustains local jobs in every corner of the nation.”

“Given the urgency to address the climate and nature crisis that we currently face, the Appalachian Mountain Club applauds the House and Senate Agriculture Committees’ efforts to include forest conservation provisions, like the Forest Legacy Program (FLP), in the reconciliation bill,” wrote the Appalachian Mountain Club. “The FLP has been successful across the entire Northeast region and has empowered our organization’s working forest conservation efforts in the Maine Woods. While working in close partnership with local communities, this program has enabled us to practice sustainable forestry and sequester carbon, support jobs in the timber and outdoor tourism sectors, increase access to recreation and trails, and preserve biodiversity and habitat connectivity. Our FLP-supported work has also allowed the endangered Atlantic salmon to return to their natural spawning ground on the West Branch of the Pleasant River for the first time in 180 years, a crucial step in the restoration of the forest ecosystems of Maine. We urge Congress to retain forest conservation provisions in the final reconciliation bill to ensure these vital resources are preserved.”

“Right now we have a unique opportunity to invest in critical forest conservation that protects drinking water, preserves biodiversity, builds climate resilience, and supports local economies that rely on our state and private forestland. We are grateful for the work of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on the forestry provisions in the reconciliation bill, including an important investment in the Forest Legacy Program,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “Protecting working forests that sequester carbon and bolster resilient ecosystems is key to combat the climate crisis and the ever-growing pressure of development. The Open Space Institute has protected forests from Maine to Florida, and we look forward to growing these efforts by ensuring investment in forest conservation remains in the final reconciliation legislation.”

“We appreciate the work of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for their work on numerous forestry provisions in the reconciliation bill, including a strong and much needed investment in the Forest Legacy Program. This is an incredible opportunity to invest in state and private forests that provide local jobs, recreation access, climate resilience, and clean drinking water for people across the country,” said Peter Stein, Managing Director of The Lyme Timber Company. “The Lyme Timber Company has successfully completed Forest Legacy funded working forest conservation easements in Wisconsin, Maine, and New Hampshire – totaling more than 250,000 acres. Increased investment in the program is a key tool to grow this voluntary forest conservation and the local economies that depend on our forests.”

“The Forest Legacy Program delivers benefits to communities across the country as a catalyst for job creation in rural areas, a means of increasing access to the outdoors, and as a tool for protecting our forestland,” said Mark Falzone, president of Scenic America. “The program aligns closely with Scenic America’s work to protect scenic beauty to encourage economic development. Investments in our nation’s scenic and natural treasures are critical for the health and welfare of all Americans. Scenic America applauds the Senate and House Agricultural Committees for their significant support of these forestry provisions in the reconciliation bill and we urge Congress to retain this funding in the final legislation.”

“Urban tree plantings are a vital component of the green infrastructure network across Southeast Michigan,” said Amy O’Leary, Executive Director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. “Through guidance from SEMCOG’s Green Infrastructure Vision, communities are working collaboratively to increase tree canopy to 40 percent across the region. Funding for this work is critical to Southeast Michigan’s minority and low-income population who disproportionately live in neighborhoods with the lowest tree canopy – as low as 6-10 percent in many areas. Increased funding will support region wide goals and will allow communities to build resilience, begin to alleviate social inequities through environmental justice solutions, and invest in their futures.”

“Maine’s forests are a vast undeveloped landscape nearly 3.5 times the size of Connecticut. They provide significant habitat for migratory songbirds, are the last stronghold of wild native Eastern brook trout east of the Mississippi, and are an enormous carbon sink offsetting over 60% of the greenhouse gases emitted in Maine every year,” said Karin Tilberg, executive director of the Forest Society of Maine. “The Forest Legacy Program is one of the most effective sources of funding to bring permanent conservation to this unparalleled, great forest.”

“Access to a safe, reliable, and affordable supply of water is of critical importance to agriculture as well as our nation’s entire economy and the environment, especially during this long, extended drought in Arizona and other western states,” said the Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona. “Forest conditions need a great deal of attention to protect our water supply, ecosystems, recreation and other economic and environmental benefits. Devastating fires are a regular occurrence which benefit nothing. Now is not the time to cut such watershed and wildfire funding during the reconciliation debate.”

“The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests greatly appreciates the efforts underway to increase the investment in the Forest Legacy Program. This program has been a key tool to help conserve the working forests in every region in New Hampshire,” wrote the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “From the 171,500 acre Connecticut Lake Headwaters in the North Country, to the 7,786 acre Pillsbury/Sunapee Highlands and to the Forest Society’s own Moose Mountains Reservation, support from the Forest Legacy Program has benefitted the important forest and water resources, wildlife habitats and of course the natural beauty of our state. Increasing the available funds will serve to strengthen its mission. We want to thank the New Hampshire Congressional delegation for their continued support of this critically important program.”