Putting America’s forests to work on climate change: Hill Op-ed

Thanks much to NAFSR for their twitter feed.

Robert Bonnie was Jim Hubbard’s predecessor in the Obama Administration (I think, the Department may have reorganized). They were/are both the political appointees in charge of the Forest Service. Here are a couple of my thoughts on this op-ed. If we tried to find areas of agreement, would we find one in planting trees? Maybe folks who disagree about other things could work together on that. My other observation is that the authors don’t mention the carbon impacts of switching from wood to other construction material, and still make a case for wood products- keeping forests in forests. Below is an excerpt and here is a link.

This means we must plant more trees — a whole lot more. The U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization, a report published in 2016 and written by some of the federal government’s most-experienced climate experts, called for as much as 78,000 square miles of new forests across America. Mirroring the original New Deal, we should make a dramatic “Reforest America” commitment to plant billions of trees.

As we add new forests, we must also slow the loss of existing forests to urbanization by providing incentives to landowners to conserve forests. While the amount of U.S. forestland is currently stable, projections indicate we will begin to lose millions of acres to development in the years ahead if we don’t act.

Third, policy must promote the restoration of healthy forest ecosystems, particularly on public lands. This will require a dramatic increase in the selective harvest of trees in overgrown forests and the reintroduction of natural, low-intensity fires in order to reduce carbon emissions from catastrophic wildfires, disease and pests.

Accomplishing these goals will require substantial new public investment, matched by private financing. On private lands, financial resources will be required to help landowners plant trees, conserve forests in the face of development, and manage them to increase long-term carbon storage. On National Forests and other public lands, we must provide the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies with funding to undertake large-scale forest restoration.

But, public dollars alone won’t meet the challenge. To be successful, we must expand markets for wood products in building, bioenergy and other applications. While this might seem counter-intuitive, private landowners respond to higher wood prices by planting trees and maintaining forests.

Wood markets are needed for conserving forests on public lands, too, where a century of fire exclusion has left our forests overstocked with smaller trees and thus far more vulnerable to wildfire, pests and disease. Robust wood markets can help finance restoration of National Forests and other public lands.

We need to move forward despite a vocal minority who argues that we must curtail forest management and the use of wood products to protect the climate. This approach would risk much greater carbon emissions from climate-induced forest mortality and wildfire. Reducing the demand for wood products would increase the cost of restoring forests on public land while diminishing the financial incentive for private landowners to plant, manage and conserve forests.

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