Energy & Environment

Manchin, Barrasso announce bill to revegetate forests after devastating fires

Bipartisan legislation introduced by the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Energy Committee would establish national revegetation efforts in response to a series of devastating wildfires that have swept forested areas in the western United States.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced the measure, called the America's Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration (ARCs) Act of 2021, with Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) and Angus King (I-Maine). The bill would establish a national revegetation plan under the umbrella of the Interior Department and the Forest Service, which would determine the number of acre of federal land requiring revegetation. The Interior Secretary would be required to publish a report detailing the amount of land and where it is located.

The bill would also require Interior and the Forest Service to establish a revegetation task force for each region of the U.S. within 18 months. Each regional task force would develop a region-specific revegetation plan in the six months following their establishment.

It would also establish a pilot program to revegetate abandoned mine sites on federal, state and tribal land for eight years, after which Interior would be required to submit a report outlining its results.

Separately, the bill would establish a non-federal fund for mechanical thinning in high-risk forests and establish a method of tracking those forests' carbon impacts.

"We can prevent carbon emissions and improve the resiliency of our forests and rangelands through proactive measures such as revegetation, wildfire prevention, hazardous fuels reduction projects and the expanded use of wood products," Manchin said in a statement. "It is clear the federal government should be leading the charge in these efforts, which is why I'm proud to join Senator Barrasso, King, and Marshall in introducing the bipartisan America's Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration Act. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure this much-needed legislation becomes law."

Lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in the past that emphasizes tree-planting as a solution to carbon emissions, although activists and climatologists have emphasized that planting trees alone is not a feasible method of reversing climate change without reducing emissions from fossil fuels. House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) earlier this year announced he would reintroduce legislation aimed at committing to planting over 3 billion trees a year.