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.
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.
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.
–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.
Defend, Don’t Defund, the Forests in Which We Live
City, town, and suburban neighborhoods that are pleasant to walk or drive through—what is one thing they tend to have in common? The presence of mature trees. We can thank the science and practice of urban forestry for that. Urban environments are those that have been significantly altered by human activity. Eighty percent of Americans live in the urban forest; by 2050, ninety percent of us are projected to be.
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:
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 funded through Interior Appropriations. 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.
Welcome to the New York State Urban Forestry Council Website