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U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Reforestation

Planted trees in tubular tree shelters on a burned area. Planted trees in tubular tree shelters on a burned area.

Reforestation, whether by planning for natural regeneration or tree planting, is at the core of our efforts to protect watersheds on National Forest System lands and on adjacent lands that have been affected by natural disturbance events, such as wildfire, climate change, and insect and disease infestations. Historically, restoring forested ecosystems following either unplanned catastrophic events or from planned timber harvests is a top priority for national forest management. Reforestation is a silvicultural treatment used to re-establish forest cover, thus initiating the restoring of forest function. Prompt reforestation allows for the accelerated development of forest structure, species composition, and canopy that provides many benefits including wildlife habitat, clean and abundant water, carbon sequestration, forest wood products for consumers, forested recreation opportunities, and maintenance of soil productivity through soil erosion reduction. Reforestation presents unique opportunities to address emerging issues associated with climate change by conserving and managing genetic diversity to adapt to a changing climate, as well as sequestrating carbon to counter greenhouse gas emissions.

In some situations, relying on natural regeneration from on-site seed and genetic sources may best meet management objectives. While on other sites where the seed source has been lost due to a natural disturbance, such as a stand-replacing wildfire, tree planting may be needed to restore trees to the site. Forest Service nurseries and seed extractories remove seed from collected cones to grow adapted seedlings for out-planting. This assures that desirable species and stock types are used for restoring native ecosystems. Reforestation needs from planned management timber harvest activities is typically paid for by receipts collected from purchasers of timber sales, while reforestation partners contribute needed funds to reforest areas deforested through natural disturbances such as those following wildfires.