Options Memo

Valentina Balatsenko

Why do we need change?

With the steady increase in the global temperature, something needs to be done in order to preserve the nation’s environment. Even though deforestation by excessive logging is not at the scale it used to be, deforestation and climate change is still a threat to the future of the country and the world. 

In looking at possible options for policies, it’s important to consider the costs and benefits. Based on the current climate situation and recent issues with net tree loss, some possible alternative policy options may include: rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, introducing stricter federal forestry laws, or creating more national reserved forest land. 

Let’s break down each of the possibilities for policy options:

Option 1: Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord

During his term, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. According to a press release from the White House, this was due to the “unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement” (Pompeo, 2020). This same press release stated that the United States has “reduced all types of emissions”. Despite these statistics that the White House has put out in response to withdrawing from the Agreement, many politicians have voiced concerns and desires to rejoin the Accord. This action by President Trump would make the United States the only country to withdraw from the Agreement. 

Some key aspects of the Paris Climate Agreement include: long term temperature control, global peaking, mitigation, sinks and reservoirs, voluntary cooperation, adaptation, and more (2020). 

While the decision to withdraw from the Agreement could not take place immediately, the White House sent an official notice to the United Nations that it would withdraw on November 4th, 2020. With the approaching Presidential election, this issue has already been addressed by the candidates. Presidential candidate Joe Biden has stated that he will immediately rejoin the Agreement if he is elected, while Trump will move forward with the withdrawal from the agreement.  

Option 2: Federal Forestry Laws

Because the majority of the country’s forests are privately owned, the federal government does not regulate forest land, other than national parks and federal reserved forests. The United State Forestry Service provides technical and financial assistance to private forest land owners, but does not directly regulate private forest land. The governing of private forest land in the US is done through individual state forestry laws, which vary widely by state (Tom, 2016). Creating federal regulation in forestry could help create structure and help the Forestry Service monitor the health of the country’s forests. While this would take away some of the governing rights of the states by imposing federal laws, this alternative option might be something to consider when looking at how to protect the nation’s forests in a changing global environment. 

Option 3: Designating more Reserved Forest Land for Federal Protection

Another alternative option for possible policies for this issue is to designate more of the country’s forest land for federal protection. Because around 56% of the country’s forests are privately owned (Tom, 2016), the federal government has no control over how those forests are used or protected. Putting more of the nation’s forest land into the protection of reserved status may help decrease the risks that US forests face in these times. Through regulating activities on these lands, risks to the country’s forests could be more controlled (wildfires, invasive species, droughts). 

What now?

In the next post, we’ll look at which possible options are best given certain priorities and which would be realistic for the country.

Pompeo, M. (2020, September 25). On the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement – United States Department of State. 

Tom, T. (2016, September 16). State of Forests and Forestry in the United States. 

What is the Paris Agreement. (2020). Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/what-is-the-paris-agreement

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