Forestry Notes Q&A: Jad Daley

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Jad Daley is the President and CEO of American Forests, the nation’s oldest forest conservation organization founded in 1875. Daley has a long record of leadership in the forest community, including co-founding the Forest-Climate Working Group, which he continues to co-chair, and leading the 22-state Eastern Forest Partnership. Daley has also played a lead role in authoring multiple pieces of federal legislation for forests, including the enabling language for the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest Program and Community Wood Energy Program, both enacted as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Daley’s writing has been featured in media outlets such as The Washington Post, New York Times and Huffington Post. He is a graduate of Peddie School, Brown University and Vermont Law School. Recently, he sat down with NACD Forestry Specialist Mike Beacom to discuss a number of topics. 


You’ve been busy this past year promoting forestry as a tool to combat climate change. You penned an op/ed for The Hill with former USDA Undersecretary Robert Bonnie this summer, and recently, you spoke at the Climate Action Summit. How is this message being received?

Extremely well. I often say that we have crossed a tipping point in terms of “forests for climate.” It seems increasingly well-settled that forests are a key to solving climate change, and this crosses political boundaries and other lines in our country.

What is less settled is what this means. We put a lot of energy into the message that working forests and wood products are the “engine room” of carbon sequestration in our forests. This is counterintuitive for most people who assume that forests for climate is just about letting forests grow. These folks don’t appreciate the distinction between carbon storage (carbon already stored), current rates of sequestration, and the role of wood products in storing carbon and reducing emissions from manufacturing.

It seems increasingly well-settled that forests are a key to solving climate change, and this crosses political boundaries and other lines in our country.

We also find that many people don’t realize the impact climate change is already having on forests in terms of declining forest health, and therefore, the importance of management and restoration to deal with these increasing challenges. We call this forest health work “carbon defense” to help make the point that keeping forests healthy prevents emissions from mortality and wildfire. This is just as important as increased sequestration.

Do you believe enough Congressional leaders understand the role forestry can play in combating climate change? What is your organization doing to help make that connection?

We see a rapid growth curve in understanding that varies a lot by committee and member. For example, the Agriculture Committees in the House and Senate have been thinking a lot about these issues and are very well versed. Other committees that have been more focused on traditional climate issues like clean energy are just getting up to speed.

Across the board, we see strong support for actions like tree planting, which are easy to understand in terms of carbon gains and what we need to do. It is a longer and more complex conversation to see members of Congress and staff embrace concepts like thinning fire-prone forests for long-term carbon gains and the complexities of climate adaptation in forests as carbon defense.

Perhaps most encouraging is the Climate Stewardship Act (S. 2452 and H.R. 4652) that would invest billions in forest sector activities, including tree planting, forest management for carbon, wood products utilization, and workforce development with low-income communities.

American Forests has organized a series of regional learning labs this fall. Can you talk a bit more about the design of this effort?

The Learning Labs are a unique model for helping policymakers from the 25 states of the U.S. Climate Alliance develop a deep understanding of what drives carbon benefits in the land sector and how to take action.

Instead of telling them what to do with PowerPoints, we construct exercises to help them discover their own answers. To help infuse diverse perspectives, we staff the labs with technical experts like U.S. Forest Service scientists and private landowners to help shape their thinking.

It has been amazing. Multiple states have already passed new laws and launched forest restoration efforts inspired, in part, by their work in the Learning Lab. We are in the midst of a second round of labs right now, working with states broken out into regional groupings to promote focus on their key issues and cross-boundary opportunities.

Conservation districts in many parts of the country, particularly those in northeastern states, are heavily engaged in reforestation efforts. What advice would you give to NACD and conservation districts in providing assistance to broader reforestation efforts? 

We are fully committed to “Reforest America.” This is a no regrets climate investment, from wildfire-prone forests to areas impacted by pests to former agricultural lands ready to come out of production.

Conservation districts have a huge role to play through technical assistance, facilitating cost-share and even just helping to identify suitable areas.

This is a total partnership effort, and conservation districts have a huge role to play through technical assistance, facilitating cost-share and even just helping to identify suitable areas. One of American Forests’ most key partners in reforestation is the Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District in California, where we are replanting burned over areas in the San Bernadino Mountains.

American Forests, like NACD, helps support the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition. Currently, what’s the best selling point advocates have for the need to invest in our nation’s urban forests?

At American Forests, we are very focused on urban forests as a way to help reduce urban carbon emissions and to protect cities from climate-driven threats like extreme heat. There are few investments we can make in our cities that have comparable health, climate and quality of life benefits.

Want evidence? Almost 20 percent of carbon sequestration through forest growth in the U.S. is through urban forests, and they reduce energy use for heating and cooling by 7.2 percent according to the U.S. Forest Service.

But of equal importance, urban forests clean our air, play an underappreciated role controlling stormwater, raise property values and increase happiness and quality of life. They are really must-have infrastructure for healthy, safe and happy cities.

At American Forests, we are very focused on urban forests as a way to help reduce urban carbon emissions and to protect cities from climate-driven threats like extreme heat. There are few investments we can make in our cities that have comparable health, climate and quality of life benefits.

However, urban tree cover closely tracks income and race in too many cities. That’s why American Forests is focused on a push for “Tree Equity,” so that we plant trees and step up tree care in underserved neighborhoods that are also underserved in trees. This will assure that these benefits go where they are needed most.

We can further leverage this equity benefit by helping people in these communities access the huge career opportunities in urban forestry. This is the subject of our national Career Pathways initiative and our work with workforce leaders around the country.

We are helping make this happen through direct partnerships with 22 cities, “innovation lab” actions like publishing our Career Pathways toolkit, and policy work from our leadership to help increase federal and state investment in urban forestry.

Check out NACD’s Forestry Notes for more Q&As and stories like this.

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