An Introduction to Healthy Forests

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This training covers one area of CCL’s policy agenda, Healthy Forests. It provides an overview to explain why this is an important policy area for addressing climate change and what types of policies CCL supports.

TOC and Guide Section
Why Healthy Forests Are an Important Climate Solution

To solve climate change, we need America’s forests to pull carbon out of the air. Let’s keep our forests healthy and growing.  

America’s natural resources like forests, grasslands and oceans are natural climate solutions that pull carbon out of the air, reducing the impacts of climate change. We can manage all of these natural resources to maximize their climate change-fighting impacts.

America's forests are special places that are cherished by our communities, and they are hard at work, pulling the equivalent of 12% of America’s carbon pollution out of the air each year. By protecting, expanding and managing our forests in a way that is climate-smart, we can grow that number as high as 22% by 2030

We can increase the amount of carbon our forests pull out of the air by planting new forests in places where it makes sense. Young forests pull carbon out of the air at a very high rate as the young trees grow larger. 

And we need to protect the forests that we already have, which are disappearing. Climate change has made our forests more vulnerable to droughts, wildfires and pests.  Western forests are shrinking as a result, with up to 30% of California’s Sierra Nevada forestland lost to other types of vegetation in the past decade. When forests die, they release the carbon they’ve been storing in the soil and trees into the air. We must protect them. 

Over half of America’s forestland is privately owned. Today, landowners have limited incentives to manage their forests in a way that benefits our climate. We should provide financial incentives that encourage private landowners to preserve healthy forests and protect them from other uses.   

The world is currently losing 25 million acres of forests per year to deforestation. That rate has slowed from 40 million acres lost per year in the 1990s, but we still need to do much better. Most deforestation is occurring in tropical countries like Brazil and Indonesia, often converting the land to grow crops and livestock to sell on the international market. We should prohibit the importation of products made of commodities produced on land undergoing illegal deforestation. 

Trees from forests can be sustainably harvested in a way that keeps carbon locked up inside the wood products instead of being released into the air. Homes and buildings made with wood release up to 30% fewer carbon emissions during construction than buildings made with concrete, steel or plastic. We support policies that increase the use of durable wood products in construction.

Americans are divided on many things, but we love our trees. 90% of Americans are supportive of more trees to absorb carbon emissions. Healthy forests are the place to start fostering bipartisan collaboration on climate solutions. 

Why Urban Forests are Important 

Trees save lives in cities. Let’s make sure we plant them where they’re needed most. 

During hot weather, trees can reduce local temperatures by as much as 10°F. 12,000 Americans die prematurely each year from heat-related causes. Planting trees is the most effective way to directly lower temperatures and save lives in cities.  

Due to historic discriminatory policies, trees are often more sparse in neighborhoods with low-income families and people of color. Today, these neighborhoods can experience temperatures more than 15°F hotter than wealthier neighborhoods in the same city on a hot day, and the people who live in them are less likely to have air conditioning. Trees make outdoor and indoor spaces livable in cities, and they should be planted in neighborhoods that need them most.   

Urban trees help cities avoid catastrophic power failures during extreme heat waves by reducing air conditioning usage. A big power outage in conjunction with a heatwave in a major city could leave millions of people at risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Trees reduce air conditioning usage and the corresponding strain on electric grids.  

Trees also make people who live near them healthier and happier. Spending time around trees reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves mood and helps us live longer. Everyone should have access to trees to be able to enjoy all of these benefits. 

Every $1 million invested in urban forests creates about 24 full-time, living wage jobs that can be made available to community members

Types of Policy CCL Supports

CCL supports policies that:

  • Preserve and expand forests
    • Support reforestation (planting trees where they used to grow) or afforestation (planting trees in new locations) where it makes sense
    • Protect forests from wildfire and invasive species
    • Restore forests quickly in a sustainable way after wildfires and other disturbances   
    • Protect forests globally
  • Promote climate-smart forestry practices
  • Incentivize the use of durable wood products
  • Help to increase urban forests, focusing on neighborhoods that suffer from a lack of tree equity   
How We Will Engage

On Healthy Forests, we will be engaging both locally and advocating for federal policies as described above (with current specific bills listed below).

Locally, we will support local groups and community leaders with tree planting initiatives, invasive vine removal, helping communities take advantage of funding available for adding trees, and advocate for local policies that support urban forests, focusing on neighborhoods that suffer from a lack of tree equity

Specific Legislation We Are Supporting
  • FOREST Act - The Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act works to reduce illegal logging globally by restricting the sale of goods originating from illegally deforested land. 
  • Growing Climate Solutions Act - Facilitates the participation of farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in voluntary environmental credit markets.
More Information and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

For more information and answers to frequently asked questions, see our Advanced Training  on Healthy Forests.

Press play to start the video (9m 59s)
Video Outline
  • Why Healthy Forests are important
  • Why Urban Forests are important 
  • Types of forest policies and legislation CCL supports
  • How we will engage
  • Dana Nuccitelli
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (9m 59s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline
  • Why Healthy Forests are important
  • Why Urban Forests are important 
  • Types of forest policies and legislation CCL supports
  • How we will engage
  • Dana Nuccitelli
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