Rooting a green recovery in America’s lands

The next federal stimulus package must center rural communities and leverage environmental co-benefits

Photo: Unsplash
A red sun hangs in the sky in Hilmar, CA, where nearby wildfires have exacerbated poor air quality. Photo: Giana Amador

Expand USDA conservation programs to improve soil health and carbon storage.

It is estimated that the US can store 250 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year through agricultural practices, but insufficient technical and financial assistance significantly hinders the implementation of these practices. The federal government should increase funding for these programs to allow more farmers and ranchers to receive financial support to adopt new conservation practices that bolster soil health.

Create a network of soil carbon demonstration trials

Many producers are not widely familiar with soil health practices and/or do not have enough confidence in the benefits of soil health practices to make long-term decisions about their operations. Demonstration trials provide “seeing is believing” credibility, help farmers become comfortable with new practices, and decrease the potential operational and economic risks of implementation.

Establish a national on-farm monitoring system

To fully realize the scale potential of soil carbon practices, we need to significantly improve current soil carbon quantification methods and improve our knowledge of carbon sequestration baselines across the US. By investing in soil carbon data collection today, we can pave the way for farmers to unlock a new source of productivity and source of revenue in years to come.

Bolster forest restoration and hazardous fuels management efforts

A key component missing in addressing US wildfires today is a concerted effort to rebalance natural fire regimes. Forest restoration and hazardous fuels management protects watersheds, helps combat invasive species, minimizes risk to nearby communities and firefighters, creates jobs, and could save millions of dollars over the long term from damaging wildfires.

Expand reforestation efforts on public lands

The US has significant potential to boost reforestation efforts, with over 20 million acres of public lands currently in need of reforestation that could sequester over 16 million Mg CO2e year. A similar coordinated push for large-scale reforestation, incentivized and supported by the federal government, can help meet immediate and long-term job creation needs in both rural and urban areas.

Invest in innovative wood technologies

Leveraging government procurement to expand research and increase demand for mass timber can support economic diversification efforts in rural areas and incentivize carbon forest management practices. However, incentivizing hard wood products must be tied with robust environmental safeguards that ensure forest management practices and environmental sustainability are not compromised.

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