From the air we breathe to the clean water we drink to the shade we’re provided to escape the heat, trees play an integral role in our day-to-day lives. For example, by absorbing air pollutants, they prevent up to 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms every year. Not only are trees essential for human health, but they also play a part in our response to some of today’s most pressing environmental issues: climate change, loss of habitat and other threats to biodiversity.

As critical as forests are to our nation’s health and sustainability, the United States is facing a reforestation backlog of more than 4 million acres within its National Forest System. These are areas where the U.S. Forest Service intends to regrow forest, often after a wildfire has damaged or destroyed existing trees. Climate change has worsened this backlog, with American Forests estimating that large, high-severity wildfires are driving 81% of today’s reforestation needs, while climate impacts have also contributed to drought, invasive pests and diseases straining our forests.

Congress passed the REPLANT Act in 2021, offering new funding streams that allow the U.S. Forest Service to tackle this backlog with urgency and help restore more of our nation’s forests. However, the government agency could use additional capacity to meet this goal more rapidly. That’s where American Forests comes in.

Since American Forests’ founding in 1875, the organization has championed forestation reform nationwide. Following a $20 million keystone agreement with the U.S. Forest Service in December, American Forests will work alongside the agency to mobilize reforestation across national forests with a speed that could only be delivered through a public-private partnership.

The Tepper Foundation has partnered with American Forests before. Starting in 2021, we made a multi-year investment in their project to plant more than 250,000 trees throughout North and South Carolina. Now, we are thrilled to partner again on their implementation of the REPLANT Act and its objective to reforest public lands identified in the U.S. Forest Service’s backlog. With our investment, American Forests can provide more boots on the ground at every level, from seed collection, to the seedling growing process, to the actual planting and evaluation stage – helping deploy teams faster than if the government had to do this work alone.

Through intentional public-private partnerships like this one, we can fill existing gaps and help accelerate important projects forward. This partnership with American Forests demonstrates how philanthropy can allow for important work to happen quickly and nimbly, ensuring resources go where they’re needed most. Over the next three years, our partnership with American Forests will support the planting of 250,000 trees across 1,250 acres of land – informed by climate-smart approaches that balance a variety of needs.

On this Earth Day, we are reminded that as our forests continue to provide us with clean air, water and land, we must also continue to give back, by reforesting America together.