EPA regulations are ironically hindering reforestation efforts

Nature Conservancy scientists are collaborating with Dow Chemical Co. to develop a plan that would help solve several environmental problems with one effort – plant more trees. As a way to reduce the need for expensive equipment to capture pollutants, this partnership suggests working to recreate the wooded environment that served as a natural scrubber for millennia.

So far, researchers have found that over the course of 30 years, a 1,000-acre forest would remove four to seven tons of nitrogen oxide from the air annually. That means a 10,000-acres forest would perform the work of one average industrial scrubber. But while a scrubber has but one environmental benefit, trees are genuine multi-taskers. And it is slightly cheaper, over the long run, to remove nitrogen oxide through reforestation than by using traditional equipment.

Nature Conservancy scientists are part of one of the oldest and most respected ecological guardians in the country. But their research is not receiving the fanfare it should from the federal government. Though work on reforestation as a means to air purification – even as a complement to traditional scrubbers – was inspired by an obscure notation by the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA has proved more a hindrance than help in bringing the effort to fruition.

Federal regulations, you see, require any method to fight pollution to be quantifiable and enforceable – they want to be able to control it. Trees do not ask “how high?” when the EPA says “jump,” as corporations have been forced to do. So, the EPA and other government environmental agencies say reforestation is “difficult,” and that there is risk involved because trees are subject to disease and natural disasters.

In other words, the EPA and its spinoffs do not trust nature to take care of itself. They would much prefer costly technological meddling that makes life more difficult for some humans than simply planting more trees.

Dow Chemical and the Nature Conservancy continue to work to support their plan. It is a shame it will take such effort to overcome hurdles from those who have gotten used to doing more harm than good with environmental regulation.