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Climate and Nature

6 areas of focus for the forest restoration movement  

Forest restoration needs collective action.

Forest restoration needs collective action. Image: Pexels.

Jad Daley
President and CEO, American Forests
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Climate and Nature

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • More than 150 people from the global restoration and conservation community recently gathered in New York.
  • The gathering took place just days after New York City registered the worst air quality in the world due to smoke and haze from Canadian wildfires.
  • We highlight six key areas of focus for forest conservation and restoration.

Recently, more than 150 people from the global restoration and conservation community convened at Salesforce Tower in New York City for the second annual 1t.org US Chapter Summit. The gathering took place just days after New York City registered the worst air quality in the world due to smoke and haze from Canadian wildfires.

This backdrop underlined our key challenge: how does the 1t.org US Chapter – comprised of stakeholders from all levels of government, civil society and corporations – and the forest restoration movement as a whole, meet increasing scrutiny around natural climate solutions while facing some of the very real and harshest impacts of a changing climate?

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Thankfully, this meeting brought together some of the brightest minds in our field and highlighted six areas of focus for the forest restoration movement over the next year.

1. Restoring nature is complex and the benefits are broad

Restoration is not a one-size-fits-all solution, just like the challenge is not a one-issue-fits-all problem. We need to reframe restoration and expand the conversation to include all of the co-benefits of forests: biodiversity, carbon capture, economic benefits and many others. Carbon capture is a natural and critical benefit that forests provide us – but the potential of this service is even greater when biodiversity and people are prioritized and placed at the heart of forest conservation and restoration action.

2. We need to bridge the gap between communications and science

We have a unique opportunity to harness the power of US leadership to effectively tell the story of the Trillion Trees movement. Our opening remarks from Tom Crowther reiterated that by grounding the story in science, we can build trust and predictability around the restoration movement. Let’s lean in while acknowledging there are challenges we will meet along the way. We cannot wait to have the perfect answer to the equation before we start solving the problem.

3. We cannot talk about nature without talking about people

The benefits of forests are intertwined with people. Forests can support the economy, provide recreation opportunities and improve urban health. We need to elevate more voices from marginalized communities, indigenous peoples and youth. We need to centre those most impacted by climate change to tell this story. This effort must be radically inclusive to succeed.

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4. Innovation is key

Forest restoration faces many challenges: climate-driven weather events, shortages in the seed-to-forest pipeline, the intersectionality of climate change, social justice, and more. We’re thankful for companies like Manulife for supporting ecopreneurs who are spearheading new solutions to address key conservation and restoration barriers via UpLink. In particular, the Sustainable Forest Management Challenge cohort which was announced at the Summit, and the latest challenge on forests and health calling for innovative solutions that emphasize the interdependence between forests and human health and wellbeing.

5. Ambition needs to meet accountability

The world is demanding rigour, reporting and transparency around forest restoration projects. As a whole, the forest restoration community has to step up and speak out on the quality of their projects. The next focus for the 1t.org US Chapter is shepherding reporting for the over 100 pledges from the public, private and civil society sectors that are part of this community. We must ensure our pledges are accountable to their commitments and we must offer them as much help as needed to help implement them.

6. The trillion trees movement is growing

The 1t.org US chapter welcomed new members to our community including the City of New York, Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation, World Resources Institute, One Acre Fund, and Evangelical Environmental Network, as well as global pledges including Frontera. The Trillion Trees movement is growing across North America, with the 1t.org Mexico Chapter accepting new corporate pledges, and the 1t.org Canada Chapter launching next month. The growth of the Trillion Trees community shows the readiness of more and more people and companies to engage, not just in North America but globally, with clear thoughts on how they want to show up.

In the US we’re already winning in some crucial areas, including funding. With the passage of the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, the US government made the biggest investment ever in urban and community forests while also supporting historic investments in reforesting large landscapes to deliver on the power of trees.

We in the US are closely tracking how other nations are planning and implementing forest conservation, restoration and urban tree canopy expansions and are eager to share what we’ve learned as well as tap into the growing 1t.org restoration community to import the best practices from around the globe. Together as one community we can elevate and scale our work to capture the full potential of forests to confront the most pressing challenges of our time.

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