American Forests, the nation’s first forest conservation organization founded in 1875, announced its support for the Climate Stewardship Act that will be introduced with leadership from U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) when Congress reconvenes in September. When introduced, this bill will be the most ambitious reforestation proposal in our nation’s history, surpassing even the New Deal. It will make an immense dent in the climate crisis, capturing enough carbon dioxide emissions in newly planted forests to offset more than two full years of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, and will support more than 200,000 forestry jobs in the first ten years alone.
“The Climate Stewardship Act is the most ambitious legislation in our nation’s history to mobilize America’s forests as a climate change solution,” said Jad Daley, President and CEO of American Forests, the nation’s oldest forest conservation organization founded in 1875. “With this visionary proposal to plant billions of trees across America, including cities, Senator Booker has shown how smart federal investment can dramatically increase the power of forests to naturally capture our carbon emissions. Best of all, the Climate Stewardship Act brings everyone on board to help, in cities and rural communities alike, and creates paid employment for people who need these opportunities most. As the organization that spurred creation of the original Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, American Forests especially appreciates this focus on creating green jobs from the important work of solving climate change with forests.”
Title II of the Climate Stewardship Act provides funds to plant 4.1 billion trees by 2030 and 16 billion trees total by 2050. These newly planted trees will cover 64 million acres, focused on reforesting lands owned by federal, state, local, tribal, and non-profit entities. Such lands account for 42 percent of all forestlands in the United States. Thanks to the natural process of carbon sequestration, these trees will capture and store more than 13 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by the end of the century—equivalent to more than two full years of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at current levels.
The Climate Stewardship Act is notable for its focus on urban areas, with 400 million of the newly planted trees focused on cooling cities during heat waves to protect people and reduce energy use. This urban tree planting will be targeted to underserved communities, because urban tree cover consistently tracks income, race, and influence, with underserved neighborhoods too often falling well below the citywide average. The urban trees to be planted under this act will save more than 800 lives and avoid 200,000 incidences of heat and respiratory illness, while saving 61.9 TWh hours of electricity and 41.7 trillion BTU of gas for heating and cooling. These benefits will generate more than $10 billion in health care and energy savings, and will further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding emissions of 144 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
“This proposal includes the most ambitious urban tree planting initiative ever imagined in America,” said Daley. “It aligns perfectly with American Forests’ call for a commitment to ‘Tree Equity’ in America’s cities so low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have the health, wealth, and climate benefits of urban trees. The Climate Stewardship Act shows how the federal government can help turn this vision into reality.”
✓ Key Provisions in Title II of the Climate Stewardship Act:
- Provides funding to the US Forest Service and the Department of Interior sufficient to plant 9.5 billion trees on national forests, national parks, Bureau of Indian Affairs lands, and other federal holdings.
- Establishes a Reforest America cost-share program sufficient to help states, tribes, local governments, and non-profits plant an additional 6.6 billion trees.
- The Reforest America program includes dedicated funding for urban forests sufficient to plant 400 million trees, prioritized for underserved urban neighborhoods most in need of tree canopy cover and most at risk from climate change threats such as extreme heat.
- Establishes an Urban Wood Program to create jobs in disadvantaged communities and retain sequestered carbon by supporting the reuse of lumber from abandoned buildings and other urban wood flows.
- Establishes a new Stewardship Corps, modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps, to provide economically disadvantaged youth with hands-on training and experience while employing them in the reforestation and restoration of federal forests and wetlands.
More than 60 farmer, environmental, restoration, and forestry organizations endorse the Climate Stewardship Act of 2019. A full list of endorsing organizations can be found here.
About American Forests
Founded in 1875, American Forests is the nation’s oldest conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring America’s forests, but our work today is more critical than ever because forests are a natural climate solution. Since 1990 alone, we have planted over 60 million trees in forest restoration projects in all 50 U.S. states. We have also worked in dozens of cities across America, expanding tree canopy and making our communities more sustainable, beautiful and livable. Together, these projects recover hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, safeguard vital watersheds, absorb millions of tons of greenhouse gases and protect some of the most stunning landscapes in America. American Forests is also a noted leader in climate policy and science, including leadership of the Forest-Climate Working Group and serving as an Impact Partner to the U.S. Climate Alliance.