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Map Helps States Find Best Place For Next Forest

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A new tool identifies the potential for replanting trees in Idaho and across the country.The Nature Conservancy and American Forests's Reforestation Hub is a comprehensive look at county-level opportunities for planting trees where they once grew.

It found there are nearly 4.5 million acres of formerly forested land in Idaho.

Susan Cook-Patton, senior forest restoration scientist for The Nature Conservancy, said replanting trees is one means for addressing climate change.

"The point of this work is to say, OK, here is one tool," Cook-Patton explained. "Let's break it further down into ten different menu items that then you could pick what works best for your community, for your county, for your state."

Reforesting Idaho would absorb more than 4.3 million cubic tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year, enough to consume the emissions of about 940,000 cars annually.

When identifying areas ripe for reforestation, the map filters the most promising places based on factors such as how the land is currently used and who owns it.

Cook-Patton noted Idaho has many opportunities across different land categories, such as marginal cropland and shrub land.

Reforestation can also be important in areas scarred by wildfires, an increasing threat in the Northwest because of climate change.

Cook-Patton pointed out forests can grow back on their own but sometimes need intervention to weather future fires.

"That can help stabilize the soil and get the system to come back more rapidly so that we can enjoy our forested areas again," Cook-Patton clarified.

The Nature Conservancy in Idaho is partnering with the City of Boise on its City of Trees Challenge, which aims to plant a tree for every household and a seedling for every resident.

Cook-Patton added urban tree-planting has many upsides.

"We can really benefit from having those trees close to our homes for all the cooling benefits and biodiversity and just general emotional well-being to see a tree out our window," Cook-Patton concluded.