This week, please call, write and/or tweet these two US Congress members from New York who are on the powerful House Appropriations Committee:
US Congressman José Serrano (202) 225-4361) who has historically been supportive of urban forestry, and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (202) 225-6506) who has also been strong on the environment. If you are a constituent of theirs be sure to let them know; however, we can all call! Say you are appealing to them as members of the House Appropriations Committee who deliberate on behalf of all Americans.
They need to hear why urban forestry is so important to you. Emphasize the $$ value of the urban forest, about the fact that trees pay us back. “Cutting the federal urban forestry budget will cost Americans more money that it will save!”
Congressman Serrano represents New York’s 15th Congressional District, loosely bounded by the Harlem, Bronx, and East Rivers on the west, south, and east, extending north up past Fordham Road.
Congresswoman Lowey represents New York’s 17th Congressional District, which lies in the Lower Hudson Valley and includes central and northwestern Westchester County and all of Rockland County.
Sample Tweets to Reps José Serrano and Nita Lowey on House Appropriations Committee:
With the assistance of consultant Jerry Bond from Urban Forest Analytics LLC, the City of Batavia recently completed their first comprehensive Tree Management Plan. It was funded through Round 12 of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) Cost-Share Grant program, administered by NYSDEC.
City of Batavia Director of Public Works Matt Worth was Bond’s point person for the Plan creation process. Worth says, “A Plan was put together which consolidated several segmented sets of data and put it into an electronic format which the field supervisors are becoming proficient in managing. The overall Plan provides guiding strategies for increasing the sustainability of Batavia’s urban forest as the City moves through the next 20 years. Many of these strategies were easily implemented, and streamlined our decision making in regards to the City’s urban forest.”
Over the last five years, a number of complementary inventories of Batavia’s public trees have been made. A full inventory of street trees was completed in 2014 by Cornell University’s Student Weekend Arborist Team (SWAT) under the local direction of Fred Cowett and the general oversight of Prof. Nina Bassuk. In October of 2016, Jerry Bond of Urban Forest Analytics LLC conducted a sample inventory to estimate the maintenance needs of a large number of trees left unrated by SWAT, and to confirm the status of the street tree resource more generally. In June of 2016, Bond did a full inventory of the City’s park trees.
As you may have heard, President Trump’s 2018 Federal Budget proposal has $0 for urban forestry funding nationwide. What are the potential impacts of this to us in New York State, and how can we mobilize to prevent this from happening?
The key is to reach out to our MOCs (members of Congress) now. This is as simple as making a weekly phone call that takes two minutes or less, for which you can see a script later in this blog post. This post will walk you through it.
But first, what would happen to the urban forestry program in New York if the federal UF budget zeroes out? Here’s a partial list:
-We would lose our 2 part-time (and only) paid staff from the Council. We would see the elimination of 6 full-time employees from State employment and 2 part-time staff from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County.
-The Council would lose all federal grant funding and most likely cease to exist as a resource to the public.
-The Council’s Arbor Day grant program aimed at assisting small communities would be terminated.
-The NYSUFC website/blog, ReLeaf conference, and other educational outreach would end.
-The EPF (cost-share) grant program would be under-supported by DEC forestry staff.
-15,000,000 New York residents currently being supported by the urban forestry program, particularly in large cities and towns, would lose that funding and technical assistance.
What can we do to prevent this budget cut?
The House of Representatives is considering the budget now. The most effective thing for each of us to do is to write or call our congressperson immediately. Your congressperson is your voice in the House of Representatives. If you don’t know who represents your U.S. Congressional District, you can find him or her quickly through this tool: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find
What should we say when we call?
Your congressperson’s staff is there to hear your concerns and will politely take your opinion and pass it on. Depending on how busy they are, they may ask for your name and address to verify you are in their district. You should provide that. Your message should be concise and heartfelt.
Here is a sample script:
“Hi, my name is _________ and I live in the Congressman/Congresswoman’s District. I’m concerned that in President Trump’s proposed budget, he has slashed funding to urban and community forestry. Funding for urban forestry comes through the U.S. Forest Service, which is housed in the Dept of Agriculture. Urban forests are vital to making our cities livable. They cool our cities, they reduce stormwater runoff, they increase property values, they sequester carbon, and they do much more. Please restore full funding to the US Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program.”
When should we act?
The best thing is to call weekly (or more) until the House decides on the budget. Multiple calls from one constituent are usually all tallied and counted, so don’t hesitate to keep calling. Staff will tell you that if people all call on one day, it has more impact. So please join us for Save Our Urban Forests Mondays! #SaveOurUrbanForestsMondays
If you can’t call on Monday, another day is fine.
What else can we do?
The more voices that are heard, the better. Please share this message far and wide and activate professionals and your community members to join with you. Ask them to call every Monday (or more) until the House settles their budget debate (we will keep you updated). Share this post via email, social media, or word of mouth to as many folks as you can.
Thanks so much! And thanks to our editor Michelle for her help with this post. —David
by Mike DeMarco, Council Board Member and City of Watertown Planner
As a newly appointed board member to the NYS Urban Forestry Council, I can’t imagine a more important time to be present, focused, and committed to what our Council represents. Federal urban forestry funding helps to supply grants that aid efforts to beautify and improve many of the communities that make up our wonderful state. So, what can we do as a Council to help inspire our elected officials to show support for this valuable funding? The idea may seem a bit daunting, right? Actually, it’s been fun and rewarding!
I’ve been participating in advocacy efforts using the newly available NYSUFC advocacy postcards! This simple yet effective tool was inspired by a grassroots effort in women’s rights. How cool is that?! With this successful blueprint already laid out, we will continue to use the postcards to contact our elected officials in hopes of engaging their leadership, influence, and support for urban forestry funding.
At a recent meeting of Watertown, NY’s street tree advisory board, Tree Watertown, NYSUFC advocacy postcards were filled out by members of the board and mailed to state and federal elected officials to let them know that urban forestry funding is important!
One member of Tree Watertown wrote, I am a member of the New York State Urban Forestry Council, and I’m concerned about: the loss of funding for urban forestry. Here’s Why: Trees help to clean our air, cool our cities, and help to mitigate the effects of pollution-laden stormwater runoff that flows into our waterways.
Another member wrote: I am a member of the New York State Urban Forestry Council, and I’m concerned about: losing valuable future urban forestry funding that is used to help keep our cities green and vibrant! Here’s Why: Trees beautify our neighborhoods and invite people to stay longer in downtown centers.
I invite you to join in with your ReLeaf or other group, photograph your group writing your postcards, and share your experiences on the Council blog! (Send to Michelle at email@example.com)
Keep a look out for Mary Kramarchyk as she’ll be supplying the postcards at ReLeaf meetings across the state, at regional workshops, and at our annual ReLeaf Conference later this summer in Queens. Stamps (first-class postage required) will be provided for the postcards. Have fun, and thanks so much! More information about this important advocacy is to come.
Please take a look at the official brochure and registration for the 2017 New York State ReLeaf Conference, which will take place July 13-15 in Queens, NY! It’s very exciting to see this posted and registration is available online (new for us!) as well as via snail mail.
Some of the highlights of this year’s conference will be Tours of NYC Parks Natural Areas and NYC DEP Green Infrastructure; a screening of the 9/11 memorial film, The Trees; workshops on NYC Tree Map and Forest Health; and invited presentations by UHI Director Dr. Nina Bassuk and Arbor Day Foundation President Dan Lambe.
From SUNY New Paltz News: SUNY New Paltz has joined a select group of U.S. colleges and universities that have met campus environment standards established by the Arbor Day Foundation, the nation’s largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees.
“Earning Tree Campus USA status demonstrates to the world what those of us who live and work at SUNY New Paltz already know – that we have an extraordinary environment for studying ecology, not only off-campus but on campus as well,” said Eric Keeling, assistant professor of biology.
For three years, the Council has been administering Arbor Day grants that provide funding to communities who wanted to have their first-ever Arbor Day celebrations and begin to build their urban forestry programs. These grants have benefited 37 New York communities whose inaugural Arbor Day celebrations you can read about here on the blog.
What about those municipalities or non-profits that have established programs and want to kick things up a notch (or many notches)? Here, colleagues to the Northwest advise on how to make sponsorship of programs and events a reality. With its current population of 472,000, Surrey, BC would rank as the 37th largest city in the U.S. Their successes as a large city with sponsorship came via strategies that are translatable to smaller communities. First, have a look at how Surrey, BC put this into practice with their annual Party for the Planet, a day-long celebration for their equivalent of Arbor Day in the U.S.
On May 6, the Village of Champlain on the west shore of Lake Champlain in Clinton County held its first-ever Arbor Day Celebration with financial assistance from the NYSUFC. The Celebration kicked off a wave of the Village’s revitalization efforts centering on the playground, pavilion, basketball courts, and Village green. Five maple trees were planted on the Champlain Playground with the help of Girl Scouts and other volunteers. Community members participated in a Tree ID walk and heard from the high school outdoors club; the Girl Scouts read nature poetry; and children participated in arts and crafts in the nearby Champlain Meeting House. For a first-ever Arbor Day Celebration, it was very extensive!
The Village of Port Chester in the Town of Rye in Westchester County recently wrapped up its Arbor Day Kick-Off Event, funded in part by an Arbor Day Grant from the NYSUFC. Port Chester Mayor’s Office, Department of Public Works, and Department of Planning & Economic Development organized the replanting of trees on the median of Haines Boulevard where a monoculture of pin oaks had succumbed to oak wilt.
The grant from the NYSUFC helped pay for the 20 replacement trees, which include ornamental cherry and pear and Japanese maples. The smaller-stature trees are more suitable for the space they’re afforded in the median, and the flowering ones have the added benefit of providing beauty in spring. The Village diversified the planting palette to create more biodiversity that will help avoid tree losses from diseases and insects in the future.
In order to generate interest in the event, Village staff canvassed every property along Haines Boulevard to speak with residents and invite them to the Arbor Day Kick-Off. The Westmore News was invited to attend the event along with the Village of Port Chester Board of Trustees, Village Beautification Commission, and Village Parks Commission. Mayor Richard “Fritz” Falanka attended to say a few words about the event and help dig the first hole for the trees; Highway Department staff ably completed the task.
The event was a huge success, and has drummed up a lot of interest in beautification and the role of trees and landscaping in enhancing the aesthetics of the Village. The Village Board of Trustees has directed staff to take a more active approach in planting and replanting efforts throughout the Village. Further, the Village is soon to release an Owner’s Manual for Green Infrastructure, which will aid property owners and the Village in combining low-impact development efforts with planting practices that can better retain stormwater and reduce pressures on the Village’s gray infrastructure.
For the third consecutive year, the New York State Urban Forestry Council has partnered with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation as the administrative and award mechanism for community Arbor Day grants (once known as “Quick Start” grants), providing a total of $10,000 in grant monies to conduct an Arbor Day tree planting program and ceremony. These grants may be up to $1,000 for communities to conduct a tree planting event on their Arbor Day. Applications are reviewed by a committee of Council board members by means of a competitive ranking review once the communities meet the grant requirements.
In 2015, 12 communities applied, and all 12 communities received a grant. In 2016, 35 communities applied, and 13 were granted funding. For 2017, 18 communities applied to the Council and the committee was able to award $10,810 in grant monies this year to 12 worthy communities.
Our congratulations to the communities that were selected for grants this year: the towns of Fishkill, Mt. Hope, Rush, and Grand Island; the villages of Lewiston, Port Chester, Champlain, Nunda, Attica, Fair Haven, and Cambridge; and the City of Niagara Falls. We look forward to doing blog posts about their successful Arbor Day celebrations and planting events.
Please congratulate anyone you know from those communities on their success and continue to encourage other communities to apply for the grant next year. Just remind them that they can’t already be a grant recipient, an Arbor Day Foundation Tree City USA, or have any parts of the process to become a Tree City (such as a tree inventory or a management plan). This is because the Arbor Day grants are meant to help inexperienced communities begin to get involved in the exciting world of urban forestry! And please don’t forget to thank our partners at the DEC for sharing this opportunity with the Council. We really do appreciate their support and trust. Enjoy the green all summer! —Brian Skinner, Council Vice President
Welcome to the New York State Urban Forestry Council Website