US has ambitious reforestation plans: Planting 1 billion trees

The new forests are meant to counteract the impact of wildfires.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Aerial view of a road across the forest.Torresigner/iStock
  • About 400,000 acres (162,000 hectares) of forests will be replanted annually.
  • In 2015 alone, 10.1 million acres (4.1 million hectares) were burned.
  • “Our forests, rural communities, agriculture, and economy are connected across a shared landscape and their existence is at stake,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced that it will plant more than one billion trees across millions of acres of burned woodlands in the U.S. West, according to an article by AP. The trees are meant to deal with the many catastrophic disasters brought on by climate change such as fires and insects.

4.1 million acres in need of replanting

Officials said there is currently a backlog of 4.1 million acres (1.7 million hectares) in need of replanting that will require the U.S. Agriculture Department to quadruple the number of tree seedlings produced by nurseries.

The Forest Service has ambitious plans to scale up work from about 60,000 acres (24,000 hectares) replanted last year to about 400,000 acres (162,000 hectares) annually. In 2015 alone, 10.1 million acres (4.1 million hectares) were burned.

"Our forests, rural communities, agriculture, and economy are connected across a shared landscape and their existence is at stake," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement announcing the reforestation plan. "Only through bold, climate-smart actions ... can we ensure their future."

More than $100 million will be spent on reforestation work this year and that number is expected to further increase in coming years, to as much as $260 million annually. But some experts are complaining that reforestation efforts are not done properly.

Joe Fargione, science director for North America at the Nature Conservancy, told AP that reforested stands need to be less dense with trees to be less fire-prone.

“You’ve got to be smart about where you plant,” Fargione said. “There are some places where the climate has already changed enough that it makes the probability of successfully reestablishing trees pretty low.”

But what causes the fires that decimate forests in the first place?

Wildfires can be the result of natural events or human-made.

Human-made causes mostly come about due to carelessness and account for 90 percent of forest fires. An unattended campfire or an unextinguished cigarette butt are some examples of these events.

Other common man-made fire risks are burning debris, fireworks, and accidental or intentional arson.

Naturally, a fire can also arise from lightning, a naturally occuring event. When lightning strikes trees, power cables, or any other combustible material, it can easily and quickly lead to wildfires.

Once the fire starts, it spreads rapidly based on the concentration of the flammable vegetation, topography, and weather conditions causing untold disasters and decimating trees that are so desperately needed to fight climate change. That’s why when it comes to wildfires, it’s best that they never even begin.

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