It’s interesting that the EO was leaked to “five individuals” who gave it to the WaPo. So those news stories had certain spins. After reading it, there are other items of interest. Note the actual title mentions both communities and local economies.
Here’s the link.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) I signed into law provides generational investments in ecosystem restoration and wildfire risk reduction. As we use this funding, we will seek opportunities, consistent with the IIJA, to conserve our mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands and restore the health and vibrancy of our Nation’s forests by reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires through ecological treatments that create resilient forest conditions using active, science-based forest management and prescribed fires; by incorporating indigenous traditional ecological knowledge; and by scaling up and optimizing climate-smart reforestation.
I could interpret that to mean.. where sections of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill say “do treatments for restoration and to protect communities” the agencies will also take into account old forests. Note that this says forests, not individual trees. So if you need to thin individual old trees to ultimately protect the old forests, then you will. This seems pretty innocuous.
In section 2, the EO starts to mention reforestation. Actions are intended to
further conserve mature and old-growth forests and foster long-term United States forest health through climate-smart reforestation
I don’t exactly see how reforestation directly conserves mature and old-growth forests (more like develops replacements) but OK. And here’s the guts of the domestic land management actions:
(a) The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretaries) — the Federal Government’s primary land managers — shall continue to jointly pursue wildfire mitigation strategies, which are already driving important actions to confront a pressing threat to mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands: catastrophic wildfires driven by decades of fire exclusion and climate change.
(b) The Secretary of the Interior, with respect to public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to National Forest System lands, shall, within 1 year of the date of this order, define, identify, and complete an inventory of old-growth and mature forests on Federal lands, accounting for regional and ecological variations, as appropriate, and shall make such inventory publicly available.
(c) Following completion of the inventory, the Secretaries shall:
(i) coordinate conservation and wildfire risk reduction activities, including consideration of climate-smart stewardship of mature and old-growth forests, with other executive departments and agencies (agencies), States, Tribal Nations, and any private landowners who volunteer to participate;
(ii) analyze the threats to mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands, including from wildfires and climate change; and
(iii) develop policies, with robust opportunity for public comment, to institutionalize climate-smart management and conservation strategies that address threats to mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands.
(d) The Secretaries, in coordination with the heads of other agencies as appropriate, shall within 1 year of the date of this order:
(i) develop a Federal goal that charges agencies to meet agency-specific reforestation targets by 2030, including an assessment of reforestation opportunities on Federal lands and through existing Federal programs and partnerships;
(ii) develop, in collaboration with Federal, State, Tribal, and private-sector partners, a climate-informed plan (building on existing efforts) to increase Federal cone and seed collection and to ensure seed and seedling nursery capacity is sufficient to meet anticipated reforestation demand; and
(iii) develop, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce, with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, and with the private sector, nonprofit organizations, labor unions, and the scientific community, recommendations for community-led local and regional economic development opportunities to create and sustain jobs in the sustainable forest product sector, including innovative materials, and in outdoor recreation, while supporting healthy, sustainably managed forests in timber communities.
I can’t comment on the international parts of the EO, but there are some “nature-based solutions to tackle climate change and enhance resilience” actions as well. “Nature-based solutions” seem to be doing good things for climate without them counting as offsets.
(a) The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense (through the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works), the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce (through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Homeland Security (through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, and the heads of other agencies as appropriate, submit a report to the National Climate Task Force to identify key opportunities for greater deployment of nature-based solutions across the Federal Government, including through potential policy, guidance, and program changes.
(b) The Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall issue guidance related to the valuation of ecosystem and environmental services and natural assets in Federal regulatory decision-making, consistent with the efforts to modernize regulatory review required by my Presidential Memorandum of January 20, 2021 (Modernizing Regulatory Review).
The stated reason to “Modernize” in the PM is:
As we do so, it is important that we evaluate the processes and principles that govern regulatory review to ensure swift and effective Federal action. Regulations that promote the public interest are vital for tackling national priorities.
It doesn’t seem to me that adding more things to calculate would necessarily lead to increasing swiftness or effectiveness. It could simply deepen the regulatory word-swamp;.
(c) Implementation of the United States Global Change Research Program shall include an assessment of the condition of nature within the United States in a report carrying out section 102 of the Global Change Research Act of 1990, 15 U.S.C. 2932.
An assessment of the “condition of nature within the US” sounds like it could be duplicative.
All in all, it seems like any regulatory changes would be further down the road after the inventory, and with lots of public involvement. All that is good. More work for the poor FS and BLM who are trying to spend Infrastructure $ and do fire suppression; and start hundreds or thousands of NEPA processes. But they might not get to the end of rulemaking before 2024, and politicians tend to be sensitive to making controversial decisions in an election year (with some notable exceptions). So we’ll see how it all plays out.