Bentz Introduces First Bill: Solving Our Shortages for Seedlings Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) introduced his first piece of legislation as a Member of Congress. His bill, H.R.2562, the Solving Our Shortages for Seedlings Act (SOS for Seedlings Act) addresses the national shortage of seedlings needed for reforestation efforts following wildfires across the United States. According to the House Natural Resources Committee, wildfires destroyed more than 68 million acres in the last decade and over 10 million acres in 2020 alone.

Congressman Bentz’s first piece of legislation has the backing of three key House Republican cosponsors, including Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.); Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.); and Former Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, Congressman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).

The bill contains three main provisions. First, it directs the direct the Chief of the Forest Service to develop a national seedling strategy that assesses regional reforestation opportunities and the nursery capacity needed to meet those opportunities. Second, it provides funding for federal nurseries, which are the main supplier of seedlings for reforestation on federal lands. Third, it creates a new $1 billion loan program to address nursery infrastructure and build new State, Tribal, local, and private nurseries. 

“I thank Ranking Member Westerman and my colleagues for their support of my first piece of legislation in Congress,” said Bentz. “My bill, the SOS for Seedlings Act, is tailored to meet the accelerating need of reforestation efforts due to years of devastating wildfires. This bill directs critically needed support to nurseries in Oregon and across our country as we scale up seedling production to an additional 1.7 billion seedlings annually to meet our country’s share of the One Trillion Tree Initiative.”

Supporters in Congress and across America have provided the following statements of support for the of the SOS for Seedlings Act:

House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)
“With catastrophic wildfires decimating the West each year, it’s imperative that we pair scientific forest management with aggressive reforestation efforts. In order to do that, however, we’re going to need to ramp up our supply of seedlings across the U.S., involving both public and private nurseries. Congressman Bentz’s home state of Oregon has been a model for many of these nurseries to follow, so I can’t think of a better person to take on this initiative. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation, and congratulate him on introducing his first bill!”

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.)
“Each year, the West faces devastating wildfires that threaten our communities, livelihoods, and – certainly – the resiliency of our forests. To support reforestation efforts and promote healthy forests, we need nurseries – that why is the SOS for Seedlings Act is so important. I am proud to support Representative Bentz’s legislation, which will support wildfire recovery efforts, benefit our environment, and restore our forests throughout the Pacific Northwest and the United States.

Congressman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
“I am proud to join Congressman Bentz in his leadership on the SOS for Seedlings Act. Catastrophic wildfire is an extremely dangerous and destructive form of natural disaster.  Prompt replanting and recovery from these disasters is critical to prevent ongoing harm to communities. By having a secure source of seedlings available for replanting we can more quickly restore our forests, prevent mudslides, and preserve habitat for critical species. Like Federal fish hatcheries growing endangered species, federally funded seedling farms are critical to our nation’s fire recovery and the future of forest management.”

National Alliance of Forest Owners
“We applaud Representatives Bentz, Westerman and Newhouse for their efforts to improve our capacity to deliver natural climate solutions through sustainably managed private working forests and wood products. As policy makers address climate change, infrastructure, affordable housing, rural economic development and other pressing needs, they are increasingly turning to forests and wood products. Our success on each of these fronts requires a healthy supply of seedlings. Smart legislation, like the Solving our Shortages for Seedlings Act, will help America’s private working forests continue to deliver for America. We look forward to working with Representative Bentz and the House Committee on Natural Resources to further advance opportunities for private working forests and wood products to meet the needs of our country.”

Joe Fox, President of the National Association of State Foresters
“State tree nurseries play an obvious and important role in reforestation efforts, but many are producing fewer seedlings and saplings compared to previous years. To meet our nation’s lofty tree planting goals, we’ll need to dramatically improve seedling production and accessibility. The National Association of State Foresters applauds Representative Bentz’s efforts to increase nursery output and our collective capacity for tree planting nationwide.”

Chandler Van Voorhis, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of ACRE Investment Management
“By planting trees on scale, we clean the air, purify the water and restore hope. But to think big, we first need to think small. It starts with seedlings. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Bentz, the Solving Our Shortages (SOS) For Seedlings Act will help State and private nurseries build capacity. This capacity will meet the demand for forest based carbon removal. It’s the start for creating a green infrastructure that enshrines life and land and our American heritage and landscape.” 

Nick Smith, Executive Director of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities
“Reforesting our federal lands should be an important priority after years of severe wildfires. In Oregon and throughout the West, there is a critical need for seedlings on burned forests of all ownerships. We thank Representative Bentz for bringing this solution forward so we can have healthy and green forests again.”

Travis Joseph, President and CEO of American Forest Resource Council
“With as many of 7.3 million acres of federal lands in need for reforestation, there is a critical need for seedlings to help our forests recover from devastating wildfires and other disturbances. The SOS for Seedlings Act will help ensure federal nurseries have the resources they need and will significantly improve our infrastructure so we can plant more trees and sequester more carbon from the atmosphere. Many of these seedlings will grow and be sustainably harvested and manufactured into climate-friendly wood products that support thousands of American jobs. The American Forest Resource Council applauds Representative Cliff Bentz for bringing this legislation forward.”

Supporting Organizations: Oregon Association of Nurseries, American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), Healthy Forests Healthy Communities (HFHC), Federal Forest Resource Coalition (FFRC), National Association of Counties (NACo), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), ACRE Investment Management, American Forest and Paper Association, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, National Association of State Foresters, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP)