The Canopy Project
Ten by Earth Day 2021: Reforest the United States for Carbon Sequestration and Habitat Protection
August 21, 2020
The legacy of the first Earth Day in 1970 is rooted in the sweeping environmental laws and regulations that resulted, many of which are under threat today. In honor of the 50th anniversary, and now with less than 80 days until the November elections, Earthday.org is rolling out the policy initiatives we want to see within the first 100 days of the next Administration, by Earth Day 2021.
This blog is the fourth in our series and focuses on reforestation policy in the United States, and the opportunities and challenges to enacting a comprehensive tree planting program with the goal of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
Widespread reforestation has rapidly taken the spotlight in recent years as an impactful strategy to sequester carbon and mitigate the rate of our changing climate. This comes with good reason, as trees represent the most straightforward, available and scalable carbon sequestration tool humans have at their disposal. What’s more, almost every country in the world could benefit from reforestation within their borders, and many signatory countries of the Paris Climate Agreement agree that reforestation will be a primary tool to meet carbon reduction goals.
While the current administration has signaled support for the Trillion Trees Initiative and the recent Great American Outdoors Act, multiple reforestation bills remain in committee in the U.S. House and Senate. Some recently proposed bills, including one by Representative Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), have been criticized for focusing too closely on planting a large volume of trees while ignoring the larger issue of reducing carbon emissions in the first place. The current administration has also been criticized for its policies of opening Alaska’s Arctic Refuge to drilling, loosening restrictions on logging on public lands, and designating a slew of regulatory rollbacks on environmental protection laws.
EarthDay.org enthusiastically supports large-scale reforestation as a goal for environmental policy in the United States, so long as tree planting initiatives follow scientific best practices. While trees can act as a carbon sink, their environmental significance is far greater. Trees are ecological stabilizers, have complex interactions with animals, can improve air and water quality and can increase human health and happiness in developed urban areas.
Earthday.org has operated its reforestation campaign, The Canopy Project, for over a decade and has planted millions of trees on every continent except Antarctica. Earthday.org planting programs support the holistic impact of revitalized forests and the good that reforestation brings to the environment and to the people who live nearby.
Comprehensive reforestation programs must go beyond planting the most trees possible and instead focus on regrowing wild spaces. Highly effective reforestation programs require biodiversity in tree species planted, maintenance and care to ensure saplings grow to maturity with a high rate of survival and a respect and recognition for the people and animals that currently live on or near planting locations.
Additionally, reforestation shouldn’t be promoted as a “silver bullet” solution to climate change, and projects need to be aware of greenwashing that could come from overstating tree planting’s ability to sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere. As we all know, trees can take decades of growth before reaching maturity.
So, while reforestation remains a necessary policy goal to protect the natural environment, it will take a while before the carbon sink benefits can be measured. And climate change is threatening our world now. Therefore, reforestation policy must also be accompanied with comprehensive measures to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Support reforestation and climate action in 2020. Vote Earth.