An Important Book for this Challenging Moment

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As mentioned in the previous post, Jill Jonnes’s heralded 2016 book, Urban ForestsA Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape, is a key resource for educating and inspiring ourselves, our fellow citizens, and our legislators as we seek to protect our urban forests. Here’s a review.

Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Landscape by Jill Jonnes 

Reviewed by Allison Craig, BioForest Urban Forest Health Specialist 

Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Landscape published by Viking Press (2016) is a wonderful read for anyone wanting to travel back in time and immerse themselves in the journey of urban forestry in America. Jonnes takes the reader on a nostalgic and well-thought out tour of iconic urban American trees and landscapes, telling stories of nineteenth-century New York City streets once lined with the exotic and vigorous tree-of-heaven, Washington, D.C.’s love affair with flowering Japanese cherry trees, the lamentable nation-wide decline of the great American chestnut, the death and re-birth of the stately American elm from suburban roadways, and the marvelous recovery of the striking dawn redwood from the depths of China’s forests.

Contemporarily, she recounts the environmental, economic, and emotional strains of the relevant and on-going battles with invasive Asian beetles, highlighting the havoc wreaked by the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer to date in America. Her retellings of the original detections and realization of the implications of these pests accurately summarize and reflect a collective feeling of dread, shock, and unease that anyone who has dealt with these beetles has surely experienced. 

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President Trump’s FY19 Federal Budget Cuts UCF to Zero

Urban-Forests-book-coverEven as the FY18 federal budget picture for UCF is unclear, President Trump’s FY19 proposed budget zeroes out urban and community forestry. We who treasure this world of endeavor–urban forestry–are charged with communicating its value (economic and intangible) to our legislators, and to do so year-round. We can educate our legislators at every level–town, village, city, county, and state–about the myriad ecosystem benefits of well-cared-for urban forests. Doing so will help keep our local funding strong and mitigate against funding threats at the national level. Our calls, visits, and letters to the editors matter.

For many legislators, the concept of urban forestry is still new. In 2016, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s wife Connie Schultz gave him a copy of Jill Jonnes’s heralded book, Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscapefor his 64th birthday. It was one of Brown’s top three reads in 2016; in a meeting with UFC advocates, he said he loved the book and now “gets it” about the value of urban forests in our nation. If you can afford to, consider sending or taking a copy to one of your legislators! You could include a note about what the urban forest means to you, as well as information about the economic value of city forests.

Here is the statement from American Forests in which the organization responds to the FY 19 proposed federal budget.

And here is the statement from the National Association of State Foresters.

 

Impact of State Forestry Agencies & UCF Reaffirmed by NASF Survey

Title of 2016 survey
The 2016 National Association of State Foresters (NASF) Survey, “State Foresters by the Numbers,” shows that even as the funding for Urban and Community Forestry through state agencies has declined, the number of communities served has gone up.

In 2016, overall funding support for state forestry agency programs came from state government (65 percent), state forestry agency revenues (17 percent), federal government (7 percent), and county and municipal government (11 percent). These percentages varied slightly by region.

All 51 survey respondents showed their state forestry agency with the lead role in administering the Urban & Community Forestry program in their respective states. In New York State, the state forestry agency is NYSDEC, with the Urban Forestry program headed up by Mary Kramarchyk.

Spending on Urban & Community Forestry nationwide decreased 1 percent, or $0.4 million in 2016 compared to 2014. This follows sizeable declines in each of the last three survey cycles (2010, 2012, and 2014). However, communities receiving state forestry agency technical assistance for this program increased in 2016 to 8,831, with the majority of these in the Northeast (see table below).
Communities receiving assistance

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NYC Parks’ Liam Kavanagh Brings Big-Picture Discussion to Council Board

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NYC Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. Photo by Michelle Sutton, from 2016 SMA Conference 2016

Last month, NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner  Liam Kavanagh came and spoke with the Council Board at their meeting at the NYSDEC Region 2 office on Long Island. Commissioner Kavanagh discussed three national, big-picture urban forestry projects with the Board: the Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan, a report on the Impact of Urban and Community Forestry Federal Grants, and the Urban Forestry Toolkit. Let’s look at each one.

1) The Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026) was developed by and for the urban forestry community. It was funded by the US Forest Service and developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC)* with extensive input from stakeholders. You can read an interesting interview with Liam Kavanagh about the Plan here.

The Plan’s purpose is to expand awareness of the benefits that our urban forests, including green infrastructure, provide to communities throughout the nation, and increase investments in these urban forest resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

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Budget Update … and the Time for UF Advocacy is Always Now

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Thanks once again to the tireless Danielle Watson, Assistant Director of Government Affairs & External Relations for the Society of American Foresters, for this legislative update on the federal Urban and Community Forestry budget for FY 2018.

As readers know, Congress is still trying to negotiate a deal for FY 2018. They have until January 19th until the current Continuing Resolution expires (after which there is, as readers probably are well aware, the threat of a government shutdown). If Congress reaches a deal and extends the Continuing Resolution, they will likely extend it until Feb. 19th. At that point, assuming they have a deal, they would sign an omnibus bill including all the spending bills from various agencies.

Remember, the House version of the Interior bill (the one that includes the Forest Service) only cut U&CF by a small amount, but the Senate bill cut U&CF by 25%. Therefore, we can assume that the final number will be somewhere in between – unless they hear a lot of push back from advocates of urban and community forestry between now and Feb 19th.

Plus, they have to start developing numbers for FY 2019 – so it’s always a good time to let your representatives in the House and Senate know how important this program is and that communities across the country can’t afford cuts to U&CF. 

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Action Alert: Senate Wants to Slash Urban & Community Forestry

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Urban forests are in need of your help! The Senate is suggesting a twenty-five percent cut to the US Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program for fiscal year 2018! Let Congress know that urban forests are important to everyone’s quality of life and any cut to the program is unacceptable. We need to call both our NYS Senators and our US Rep in the House.

Schumer: (202) 224-6542
Gillibrand:  (202) 224-4451

Here’s a sample script from which you can excerpt your script or email text. Start your communication by establishing your connection to UCF.

Dear Senator Schumer,
I work in the field of urban forestry as an educator, writer, and editor for organizations such as the NYS Urban Forestry Council. As your constituent, I am deeply concerned with any funding reduction to the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) program. The Senate proposed a 25% cut to this important program while the House of Representatives’ Appropriation Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies recommended a funding level close to the FY 2017 amount of $28 million. I ask for your help to keep the FY 2018 amount for this program level with FY 2017, at the very least.

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How NYC ReLeaf Gets it Done: Effective Advocacy for the Federal UCF Budget

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Numbers represent the respective US Congressional Districts. Twelve federal congressmen and women cover the five boroughs of NYC.

Thank you to NYC ReLeaf Planning Committee Member Nancy Wolf and NYC ReLeaf Committee Co-chair and NYSUFC Board Member Andrew Newman for sharing this account with us. 

Along with ReLeaf groups and other stakeholders around the State, New York City ReLeaf has been active in the effort to protect and preserve the vital federal Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) funds in the 2018 USDA Forest Service budget. When our NYC ReLeaf Committee learned of the concerted advocacy effort made by several prominent non-profits in California, we did not want to be outdone by our West Coast counterparts! We resolved to contact our local delegation.

With 12 U.S. Congressional Representatives across the five boroughs of NYC, it was important to alert all of them to the situation early last summer. Two of the NYC delegation—Rep. Jose Serrano of the Bronx and Rep. Grace Meng of Queens—sit on the important House Appropriations Committee that hammers out the House proposed budget, but to raise awareness of UCF more broadly, we contacted all 12 legislators. 

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Update on 2018 Federal Budget for UCF

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Thanks to Danielle Watson, Assistant Director of Government Affairs & External Relations for the Society of American Foresters, for this legislative update (10/24/17) on the federal Urban and Community Forestry budget for FY 2018.

In his budget proposal earlier this year, the President had zeroed out funding for UCF. However, the House Interior Appropriations bill subsequently specified near-level funding for Urban and Community Forestry. Then the bill went to the Senate Appropriations Committee (no current members of that committee are from NYS).

The Senate still has not released its budget numbers, but we are anticipating that they will be less than the House numbers for Urban & Community Forestry. Recall, the House numbers were only slightly under FY17 levels—which was a big win.

The Senate numbers will come out, and then the House and Senate will be negotiating a year-end budget deal, so really any time between now and December is a good time to check in with your House member and your Senators, letting them know that you support FY17 levels of funding for Urban and Community Forestry.

 

Update on Status of Federal UCF Funding for 2018

Call Now (2) Thanks to Danielle Watson, Assistant Director of Government Affairs & External Relations for the Society of American Foresters, for this legislative update (8/31/17) on the federal Urban and Community Forestry budget for FY 2018. In his budget proposal, the President had zeroed out funding for UCF. There’s good news in this update, but we are not out of the woods yet. Please be in regular communication with your members of Congress as per Danielle’s recommendation below.  

Danielle Watson: The House Interior Appropriations bill had near-level funding for Urban and Community Forestry. The Senate bill hasn’t been released yet.

The message now is for folks to contact their Senators and Representatives to tell them to “support FY17 levels for Urban & Community Forestry” or “support level funding for Urban & Community Forestry” as the appropriation bills will eventually be making their way to full votes on the House and Senate floors, or at least be negotiated at some point before the end of the year.

There’s likely to be a short-term agreement when Congress comes back in order to extend their current deadline of Sept 30 to pass a spending bill. Then they’ll fight it out at the end of the year and either pass another continuing resolution (would continue current funding levels) or an omnibus appropriations bill, which would have new spending numbers based on priorities.

 

 

 

 

 

Facts for Your Call and/or Letter this Week

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#SaveOurUrbanForests

For your calls and letters to your U.S. Congressperson (http://www.house.gov/representatives/find) this week,
here are some facts about how federal UCF dollars were used in New York State in 2016:

–NYS UCF statewide overall funding for 2016 (that goes to zero if the federal budget for UCF is not restored): $1,250,440

–Quantified UCF accomplishments in 2016 in NY:

NYS Communities Provided Urban Forestry Program Assistance: 328

Population Living in NYS Communities Provided Urban Forestry Program Assistance: 14,803,089

Urban Forestry Volunteer Assistance: 391,123 people

–The NYS Urban Forestry Program and partners participated in 2 new programs: the Energy Saving Trees Program tree giveaway on Long Island, where extensive development gives the region the distinction of having the lowest tree canopy cover in the State. Recent disasters have reduced tree cover, and caused residents to shy away from new tree planting. The Community Tree Recovery Program helped in Rochester. Volunteers assisted in replacing or saving 3,604 ash trees on streets and in parks.