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Biden’s $27 billion bet on forests
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As the White House revealed Thursday, President Joe Biden has stripped a lot from his Build Back Better framework to placate moderate Democrats. Free community college is out, as is Medicare coverage of dental and vision services, among several other priorities.

But there is one surprising area that’s so far survived the congressional gauntlet as part of a big climate spending proposal: forest management and conservation. The bill — which Democrats are trying to pass with a simple Senate majority using the reconciliation process — allocates roughly $27 billion for spending related to federal, state, and tribal forests.

While that’s just a sliver of the roughly $1.75 trillion spending package, it’s an enormous and historic number, said Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “It’s the most significant investment ever in our national forests,” O’Mara told Vox. “It’s an astonishingly big deal.”

A large chunk of those funds would go toward preventing wildfires — which release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and have devastated Western towns — and toward more equitable access to green spaces. The bill would also set aside billions of dollars for ecosystem restoration and more environmentally friendly farming practices.

Biden’s framework reveals that conserving forests and biodiversity is a core component of the nation’s plan to tackle climate change, as many scientists say it should be: Trees and soil are a natural sink for carbon dioxide, making forests a key solution for cutting climate pollution. Yet for decades, biodiversity conservation and climate change have largely been considered separate issues. The bill also shows that the US government has recognized the growing threat of climate-fueled wildfires and is willing to fund the Forest Service to do something about it.

But a few big questions remain, including whether the bill will pass. And some forest advocates fear that the boost in spending could actually increase commercial logging — which, in turn, fuels climate change.

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