US seeks to grow woodlands, tackle wildfire threat and combat deforestation

Biden signs new order as part of climate change initiative

The US government will draw up plans aimed at cutting back or stopping the purchase by Americans of agricultural products grown on illegally or recently-deforested lands around the world.

It is also planning to grow large numbers of trees in American forests and to introduce measures to tackle the threat of wildfires.

US president Joe Biden, to mark Earth Day on Friday, signed an executive order aimed at strengthening woodlands across the United States to increase their resilience to wildfire and to combat global deforestation.

The White House said wildfires and extreme weather events were growing in frequency and ferocity, "engulfing communities in the west and across the country and costing lives, homes and money".

It said Mr Biden recognised the cost of inaction was too great and was taking action. It said he re-affirmed his calls for the US Congress to address the climate crisis.

Under the new plan the US federal government will carry out an inventory of mature forests on federal lands and conduct an analysis of the threats facing them – as well as policies that could reduce those risks.

That work will help determine how the administration spends $8 billion (€7.4 billion) in forest and land management funds provided in legislation governing new infrastructure passed last year, as well as $5.7 billion for wild land fire management included in this year’s Government Funding Bill.

The White House said the recent infrastructure legislation also significantly expanded reforestation projects on national forest land – “enough to plant an estimated 1.2 billion trees and sequester 75 million metric tons of carbon, all while supporting thousands of jobs”.

Climate solution

The White House said the US’s forests were a key climate solution, absorbing carbon dioxide equivalent to more than 10 per cent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. It said federal lands were home to many of the nation’s mature and old-growth forests, which serve as critical carbon sinks.

The Biden administration also indicated that it wanted to combat “commodity-driven deforestation”

“A major driver of global deforestation is forest clearing to produce agricultural commodities like beef, soy and palm oil. To combat those practices, the department of state will lead development of a report on whole-of-government approaches to reduce or eliminate US purchases of agricultural commodities grown on illegally or recently deforested lands, including through public-private partnerships to incentivise sustainable sourcing. These efforts will not only protect forests and human rights abroad, but also provide a level playing field for responsible agricultural producers at home,” the White House said.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

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