Money headed to White Mountain National Forest for tree planting

  • White Mountain National Forest map. Courtesy

For the Monitor 
Published: 11/26/2021 5:00:28 PM
Modified: 11/26/2021 5:00:12 PM

Millions of dollars will soon be available to plant more trees and improve the health of the White Mountain National Forest through funds available in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The REPLANT Act, which stands for Repairing Existing Public Lands by Adding Necessary Trees, was a standalone bill later included in the infrastructure bill that removes the cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund, previously $30 million, quadrupling U.S. Forest Service funding by using funds collected from existing tariffs on foreign wood products. 

In total, the infrastructure bill invests approximately $7 billion for forests and forest health. The funding is primarily for forest health, including reforestation, pest management and wildfire resiliency. It is unclear exactly how much funding will be allocated to the White Mountain National Forest. 

Eric Sprague, vice president of restoration of American Forests, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to fighting climate change and improving the country’s tree canopy, noted that New Hampshire’s forests are in much better shape compared to western states, but the national forest here will still see some benefits. 

“New Hampshire has its pest problems that are doing damage to our forests,” said Sprague. “Having healthy working forests is critical. Sustainably managing our forests will help us reach our climate goals.”

The White Mountain Early Detection Network is a program where dedicated conservationists can report sightings of invasive species. Funding from the infrastructure bill could bolster this defense system to prevent insects of invasive vegetation from taking hold within the forest. 

Unlike the national park system, national forests are mixed use, allowing for recreational use as well as logging and limited economic development. To conservationists, this usage does not come without controversy. To Sprague, sustainably maintaining forests is an important step forward in conservation. 

“There are two great benefits of forest management,” said Sprague. “One is a land receiving economic benefit, there is not an urge to sell it. A working forest provides benefits to landowners. Two, is once you take those products out of the woods, that’s carbon storage for the next hundred years or so.”

The REPLANT Act aims to maintain forest integrity by also planting over 1.2 billion trees over the next decade. Nationallu, about 133 million acres have been identified for reforestation. Grafton, Carroll and Coos county account for nearly 50,000 acres of opportunity. 

The REPLANT Act covers a fraction of that amount for reforestation – 4.1 million acres – which would still spur the creation of approximately 49,000 jobs nationwide in the next decade. Sprague said the Build Back Better Act, the $1.9 trillion social spending package, will have a more long-lasting and meaningful impact to tackle climate change, as it provides funding for urban forestry.

“Trees in urban environments are incredibly important,” said Sprague. “It is a critical part of our forestry infrastructure.”

The Build Back Better Act, which has recently passed in the House of Representatives, is slated to include $30 billion in funding for climate resiliency, including $2.5 billion for urban forestry. Sprague believes both bills are essential in providing the necessary investments to improve quality of life and to tackle climate change. 

“The infrastructure bill is a huge shot in the arm for our forests but the Build Back Better is an opportunity we probably won’t see for a long time,” said Sprague. “Forests are the best thing for water quality as they filter out pollutants. Trees are one of the best climate solutions.”

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