Reports Call for Climate-Smart Restoration of America’s National Forests

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With unprecedented heat waves and deepening droughts setting the stage for another devastating wildfire season, a trio of new reports call for climate-smart and ecologically appropriate restoration of America’s national forests. The result of a collaboration among three of the nation’s leading conservation organizations — the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and American Forests — the reports stress the need to spur an increase in the pace, scale, and quality of forest restoration and to help ensure the sustainability and resilience of these treasured public lands in the face of rapid climate change.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that up to 80 million acres of national forest lands are in need of restoration to reduce dangerous fuel loads and fire risk and to improve the ecological health of these forest systems. As climate-driven changes accelerate — including warmer temperatures, more severe drought, increasingly erratic rainfall, and stronger storms — forest restoration will need to anticipate and manage for future climatic conditions. Given the immense ecological, economic, and social importance of the 193 million acres in the National Forest System, understanding how to manage and restore these lands and waters to enhance their climate resilience and to maintain their capacity to absorb and store climate-altering carbon is a central challenge for the Forest Service, its conservation partners, and surrounding communities.

“As catastrophic fires rage across the West, it is more imperative than ever that we invest at-scale in restoring our nation’s forests and other natural infrastructure,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “These reports show the most strategic path forward for revitalizing our national forests in ways that help fight climate change, improve their ecological health and resilience, and allow them to provide ongoing benefits to wildlife and people.”

“America’s national forests are a key tool to meeting our climate change goals,” said Jad Daley, president and CEO of American Forests. “With climate-smart restoration, these forests can do even more. The combination of science, policy, community engagement, and on-the-ground examples these reports provide will help us meet these challenges.”

"Our forests can be a powerful tool for combating climate change, but if we are to increase forests' carbon potential, we must invest in their restoration,” said Lynn Scarlett, chief external affairs officer for The Nature Conservancy. “Science-driven, collaborative strategies for improving the health and resilience of our national forests will not only help them sequester more carbon, they will benefit the environment, the economy and communities near and far from them. These reports offer a roadmap for how our forests' diverse array of stakeholders can and must work together to create a more sustainable and prosperous future for our forests."

Toward a Shared Understanding of Climate-Smart Restoration: A Science Review and Synthesis: To help forest managers and their partners confront this challenge, the first of these reports, published by the National Wildlife Federation, reviews and summarizes the science of climate change and forest management and proposes a set of science-based principles for climate-smart forest restoration. These principles lay out a framework for restoring forests with an eye to the future, not just the past. The principles emphasize the need to explicitly consider both climate adaptation and resilience as well as climate mitigation and carbon management in designing and implementing forest restoration initiatives.

Restoring Forests for the Future: Profiles in Climate-Smart Restoration on America’s National Forests: The second of these reports, published by American Forests, showcases how those principles for climate-smart restoration are being put into practice by on-the-ground practitioners. By highlighting and profiling innovative and collaborative restoration efforts from around the country, this report demonstrates that climate-smart restoration not only is possible, but is actually being carried out.

A Guide to Advocating for Climate-Smart Restoration in National Forest Plans: The third of these reports, published by the National Wildlife Federation, offers guidance for public engagement in the national forest planning process to ensure that newly revised plans adequately address climate considerations and concerns. National forest plans set the overall management direction for a given forest and provide guidance for the design and execution of specific management actions. This report offers specific guidance for how individuals and organizations can provide input and offer public comment on draft national forest plans with a particular focus on climate-smart forest restoration.

These three reports are part of a broader collaboration among National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and American Forests, with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, designed to promote the revitalization of America’s national forests in an era of rapid climate change. As part of that effort, this partnership has also offered a set of policy recommendations for restoring our national forests to deliver natural climate solutions and ecological benefits.

This trio of reports, together with the set of detailed policy recommendations, are intended to help advance the important work of the U.S. Forest Service and its conservation partners in ramping up climate-smart restoration on America’s national forests in ways that will enhance the capacity of these lands and waters to continue providing the many benefits and services to people and wildlife that the American people expect of them. 

Get Involved

Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

Learn More
Regional Centers and Affiliates