Skip to content
The Scorcher newsletter logo

The Importance of Scaling Forest Restoration Infrastructure

Published: February 22, 2024 by

Reforestation has the potential to provide significant climate mitigation benefits. Some estimates identify potential maximum climate benefits of over 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year[1]. The recent excitement around reforestation as a scalable natural climate solution has led to catalyzing public and private financial investments to create projects with meaningful climate impacts and a wide range of additional environmental and community benefits like watershed restoration, wildlife habitat improvements, and community enrichment outcomes.

To fully deploy the large amount of financial support available to establish reforestation projects, we need to address some key barriers to effective reforestation. These barriers include (1) matching the right tree species to sites where they will grow successfully with changing climate conditions, (2) the high up-front costs for landowners, (3) growing enough trees at the right time and under the necessary conditions to meet the rapidly expanding number of acres being reforested simultaneously, and (4) expanding the available workforce for planting and other reforestation activities that fit the needs and objectives of the variety of landowners pursuing reforestation projects, including culturally-attuned seed collection.

Thankfully, there are growing communities of researchers, foresters, public, private and tribal landowners, and seedling nursery professionals who have been working diligently to address these barriers in different forest types and regions across the U.S. In New Mexico, the newly funded New Mexico Reforestation Center, a joint partnership of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, Highlands University, University of New Mexico, and New Mexico State,is addressing barriers to reforestation with a holistic approach, engaging public agencies, private landowners, universities, tribes and pueblos, and others to accelerate reforestation by addressing challenges to the reforestation pipeline[2], with a focus on restoration of land impacted by wildfire. In the Southeast, the collaborators of the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative have identified capacity limitations critical to address to fully support the reforestation and afforestation activities needed for restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem – including funding for expanded tree production capacity paired with funding and engagement to help private landowners meet the higher costs of tree planting and related land management activities[3].

Models of best practices like these help to identify strategies to bring down the barriers to effective and lasting reforestation.  As The Climate Trust expands its reforestation work, we seek to drive investment towards reforestation projects that not only demonstrate rigorous carbon additionality and meaningful outcomes for communities but that also support the scaling of the nation’s forest restoration infrastructure.

[1] Griscom et al, Natural climate solutions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2017 Oct 31;114(44):11645-11650. 

[2] Farigone et al, Challenges to the Reforestation Pipeline in the United States. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 2021 (4).

[3] America’s Longleaf, Range-wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine: 2025-2040 (2023) [Range-wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine 2025-2040 (]