The U.S. Forest Service’s reforestation funding rose by more than $100 million this year as part of efforts to plant more than a billion trees over a decade under President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a statement. .
Wildfires are now so severe in the United States that they are burning entire stands and their seeds, preventing forests from replanting and regenerating, said Randy Moore, chief of the US Forest Service (USFS).
“It’s not the trees that are coming back, but the shrubs,” Moore said. “We have an opportunity to do something about what’s been going on for a long time.”
The reforestation campaign is the largest in the United States since the 1930s, when billions of trees were planted under New Deal work programs, said David Lytle, director of USDA Forest and Rangeland Management & Plant Ecology.
When the USFS’ reforestation budget was $30 million in the 1980s, the average annual U.S. acreage covered by wildfires has nearly tripled. Before this year, the agency met about 6% of its replanting needs, 80 percent of which were driven by wildfires, USDA data show.
Forest biologists say the new reforestation budget, enacted under the Infrastructure Restructuring Act, needs to grow more to address backsliding and new fires.
The USDA, without providing further details, expects that to “rise significantly” in the coming years.
“We may need another piece of legislation or an amendment that quadruples or tenfolds the value again,” says Owen Burney, president of Southwest’s Largest Tree Nursery in New Mexico.
Agency officials said the Forest Service is counting on partner farms like Burney’s to increase seedling production. USFS nurseries produce approximately 30 million seedlings per year.
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