2018 Omnibus Bill Contains Good News for our Urban Forests

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Calls, emails, letters, and in-person visits to federal legislators by advocates for Urban and Community Forestry have paid off! You’ll recall President Trump’s proposed FY 18 Budget zeroed out funding for UCF. Citizens and UCF advocacy groups sprung into action to educate our representatives in Congress about the myriad quantifiable benefits of the urban forest, and Congress responded.

The 2018 omnibus appropriations package passed by Congress and signed by the President on March 23, 2018 reinstates funding for USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry programs, including $28.5 million for Urban and Community Forestry. This is is actually $500,000 more than was funded in 2017, although not the $31 million requested by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) for FY 2018.

Now it’s time we roll up our sleeves and advocate for our urban forests once again, as the President’s FY 19 Budget proposal once again zeroes out funding for UCF. Thank you to all of you who made your voice heard on behalf of our nation’s urban forests. It’s a muscle we must continue to exercise.

For further reading, see the press statements from NASF, from the National Association of Conservation Districts, and Society of American Foresters — more to come.

Special thank you to Region 2 NY ReLeaf folks who took leadership on strategic legislative visits and to Danielle Watson at the Society of American Foresters for her regular briefings on the budget process.

 

 

Manuel Alarcon is 2018 Recipient of Helen Sternberg Cutler Memorial Scholarship in Urban Forestry

By Lewis Cutler

I am pleased to announce that Manuel A. Alarcon, a senior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), was awarded the Helen Sternberg Cutler Memorial Scholarship in Urban Forestry for 2018. He will be graduating with a BS in Forest Resources Management. He is exactly the kind of recipient to honor the memory of my mother, Helen Cutler, who was always planting trees in urban environments. 

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City Forest Credits (Formerly Urban Forest Carbon Registry) Update

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By Mark McPherson, Director, City Forest Credits

A year ago, I wrote for the Council blog about the Urban Forest Carbon Registry, a non-profit organization based in Seattle. The Registry developed the first-ever Tree Preservation Carbon Protocol that enables urban forest preservation projects to earn carbon credits and bring in new funding sources. The Registry is working with urban foresters in a number of cities to help them develop both preservation and planting programs. In addition, many urban forest professionals serve as advisors and protocol drafters for the Registry. Here’s an update.

New Name: City Forest Credits

The Registry recently announced a name change: City Forest Credits. It’s still a non-profit registry issuing Carbon+ Credits for city forests (more about the “+” later). We found that the terms “urban” and “urban forestry” do not connect well with either funders or the person on the street. By contrast, the word “City” ties to resilient cities, smart cities, carbon neutral cities. We also believe that the buyers of City Forest Carbon+ Credits will include sustainability and water-neutrality buyers, so we wanted to emphasize the credit as well as the carbon. 

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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

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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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Onondaga Tree Planting Includes ROW Sites in Dewitt

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Volunteers powered 2017 fall bare root tree planting in municipalities across Onondaga County. Photos Courtesy CCE Onondaga County

From Clare Carney, Natural Resource Educator for CCE Onondaga County:

This year, as part of an Onondaga County Community Development Block Grant, CCE Onondaga worked with multiple municipalities to coordinate volunteer tree plantings. One of the five communities to host the tree plantings in 2017 was the Town of DeWitt. Working with Town Naturalist Christine Manchester and her dedicated team of Tree Committee volunteers, we were able to secure homeowner-approved sites for ten trees to be planted in the right-of-way. Some homeowners joined in the tree planting, which took place on October 21st.

Manchester says, “The Town of Dewitt does seek resident approval prior to planting even in rights-of-way. It has been our experience that residents view this property as private because they mow it and there are very few sidewalks in the Town marking the boundary between private and public properties. We hope that one day, trees and sidewalks will both be treated as any other infrastructure and installed regularly in Town rights-of-way.”

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Town Naturalist Christine Manchester and volunteers got homeowner approval to plant trees in the right of way.

The other municipalities that participated in the 2017 Community Development tree plantings were the Town of Geddes, Village of Solvay, Town of Camillus, and Village of Baldwinsville. They planted in parks and public areas, so homeowner approval didn’t come into play. A total of 50 bare root trees were planted across the County by 60 volunteers of all ages attending the tree planting events. It was a wonderful season of community involvement and participation to support the renewal of urban forest canopy, green infrastructure, and environmental stewardship.