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Hickenlooper, Marshall Introduce Bipartisan Bills to Support Forest Management, Strengthen Reforestation Efforts  

May 15, 2024

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Roger Marshall introduced two bipartisan bills to expand the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) ability to plan and invest in forest health and reforestation efforts. The Branch Out Implementation Act and the Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources (RNGR) Support Act would offer state foresters greater flexibility to manage, plan, and implement their Forest Action Plans and would strengthen existing reforestation and nursery programs.

“State foresters know best how climate change and wildfires impact the lands they manage,” said Hickenlooper. “These bills give them the resources and support to recover from wildfires and preserve our forests.”

“So often, the needs of private land are overlooked. Our legislation will help level the playing field by allowing states to pursue their unique goals on federal and private lands; we also are fighting to reauthorize the National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources, which serves state and private nurseries,” Marshall said. “Forestry programs must coordinate effectively across federal, state, and local levels and work seamlessly as a public-private partnership.”

The Branch Out Implementation Act will reauthorize and boost funding for state Forest Action Plans, which serve as planning roadmaps for investments in conservation for states across the nation. In the West, years of severe drought, wildfires, and disease threaten the long-term health of our forests. This bill will allow flexibility for funds to go towards implementation as well as development of Forest Action Plans.

The RNGR Support Act will codify and expand a Forest Service program that supports reforestation efforts by states, Tribes, and private nurseries. USFS estimates that 3.6 million acres across the nation are in need of reforestation.

Congress quadrupled reforestation investments through the REPLANT Act – which was included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – by lifting the cap on use of the Reforestation Trust Fund to meet that need. The RNGR Support Act will complement that work by making funds available for grants to state, tribal, and private nurseries, as well as expanding technical assistance and workforce development.    

“Every state in the nation produces a Forest Action Plan, an expert-led initiative which identifies both the unique environmental threats facing the state and the similarly unique approaches required to address these threats,” shared Scott Phillips, President of the National Association of State Foresters and South Carolina State Forester. “Flexible funding for the implementation of these plans is essential in enabling local agencies to respond to evolving priorities in real-time. The significant, multi-faceted barriers to reforestation efforts throughout the nation impact everything from post-fire land rehabilitation to sustaining the health of our local communities. We’re incredibly grateful to Senators Hickenlooper and Marshall for their leadership on these critical efforts.”

“Thank you to Senator Hickenlooper for championing legislation that provides the flexibility states need to meet the unique forest-related challenges according to each state’s Forest Action Plan (FAP) while also prioritizing reforestation resources to help ensure Colorado is ‘recovery ready’ in the era of megafire,” said State Forester Matt McCombs. “Here in Colorado, FAP implementation funds are supporting updates to community wildfire protection plans, bringing cutting-edge technology to forest management and increasing capacity at the Colorado State Forest Service where it’s needed most to help residents understand and address their wildfire risk. The RNGR program will allow Colorado to leverage the historic investments the General Assembly made in the state nursery located at Colorado State University’s Foothills Campus creating the opportunity to combine the resources of our signature land grant institution, key non-profit partners, communities and volunteers to advance Colorado as an epicenter of reforestation research and action here in the intermountain west and beyond.”

“BPC Action applauds the bipartisan leadership of Sens. John Hickenlooper and Roger Marshall in introducing the RNGR Support Act. This legislation will bolster America’s seedling supply chain which is needed to address the backlog of reforestation projects resulting from more catastrophic wildfires and other forest health threats,” says Michele Stockwell, President of Bipartisan Policy Center Action (BPC Action). “Codifying USDA’s Reforestation, Nursery, and Genetics Resources (RNGR) program will improve nursery production capacity, workforce development training for nursery and tree establishment programs, and provide much-needed support for state, tribal, and private nurseries.” 

Specifically, the Branch Out Implementation Act would:

  • Provide greater flexibility for states to develop and implement their Forest Action Plans to achieve forest management and national conservation goals
  • Continue Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding levels by authorizing $40 million annually for the development and implementation of State Forest Action Plans

Specifically, the Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources (RNGR) Support Act would:

  • Strengthen the national reforestation pipeline to support wildfire recovery by formally authorizing the USFS Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources (RNGR) program
  • Create grant opportunities for state, Tribal, and private nurseries to help increase tree nursery capacities
  • Expand technical assistance and workforce development training to grow specialized nursery workforce

Companion legislation for both bills has been introduced in the House of Representatives. 

Over the past year, Hickenlooper has welcomed nearly $750 million in federal funding to support the state of Colorado in bolstering forest and watershed health and preventing wildfires. In the Senate, Hickenlooper was part of a bipartisan group of 22 senators who negotiated and wrote the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and was instrumental in passing the Inflation Reduction Act.

Text of the RNGR Support Act available HERE and the Branch Out Implementation Act is available HERE.


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