Funding Your Urban Forest Program: A Guide for City Foresters and their Allies 

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Author Jenny Gulick

by Jennifer Gulick, Senior Consulting Community Forester, Davey Resource GroupJenny.gulick@davey.com

This article originally appeared to broad acclaim in City Trees, the magazine of the Society of Municipal Arborists. It has comprehensive advice on funding for urban and community forestry programs of all sizes–from the seasoned to the brand-new.  

Remember the good old days when we had all the money we needed for our urban forestry programs? No? Well, me either. In over three decades of being a municipal forester, whether working for the City of Cincinnati or consulting for other communities, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Budget increase? No thank you; we’re good.”

We’ve always needed more funding. Traditionally, municipal urban forest management program funding comes from one primary source—the general fund—with some pocket-change revenue from capital budgets, grants, and even firewood sales.

But these days, urban forest managers and their allies need to take a page from a financial advisor’s playbook and seek and secure funding from multiple sources so our budgets are sustainable and to ensure against the shifting sands of the national economy and local politics. Funding for urban forest management can also be affected by factors such as competing departmental budgetary priorities, changes in public opinion, newly elected leadership, and severe weather events.

When it comes to our budgets, we need to heed our own advice against monocultures. We shouldn’t rely on just one funding source, because you never know what will happen. And, as our personal financial planners would tell us, in order to maintain a viable urban forestry program under changing conditions in an unpredictable future, diversifying our funding sources will minimize the impacts of funding cuts from any one area.

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Albany Tree Planting & Urban Forestry Funding from TD Bank

St Rose students and employees, TD bank staff, city employees helping plant trees Lisa Thomsom
St. Rose students and employees, TD Bank staff, and City of Albany employees planted trees around Albany’s Hoffman Park in October 2015. Photo by Lisa Thomson

Savvy community forestry programs are always on the lookout for funding opportunities. One avenue is through two urban forestry related programs of TD Bank: TD Tree Days, and TD Green Streets. Through TD Tree Days, City of Albany Forester Tom Pfeiffer and College of St. Rose Instructor and Science Education Problem-Based Learning Coordinator Mary Cosgrove received a grant from TD Bank to plant 30 trees in Albany around Hoffman Park. TD Bank volunteers and students and staff from St. Rose, guided by Pfeiffer and his crew from the City of Albany, planted the trees on October 27, 2015.

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NATIONAL GRID’S “10,000 TREES…AND GROWING” PROGRAM: CAN IT HELP YOUR UPSTATE COMMUNITY FOREST GROW?

storm damage
The massive 1998 ice storm in upstate NY left thousands in the St. Lawrence valley without power for weeks and caused widespread, catastrophic damage to community trees and utility infrastructure alike.

Who would think that the massive grey clouds that settled over upstate New York in the winter and summer of 1998 could possibly have silver linings? The 10,000 TREES program was developed in 1999 to assist upstate New York communities within the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp (NMPC) service territory that had sustained extensive street tree and urban forest losses and damages in the ice and wind storms of 1998.

10,000 TREES initially assisted 42 communities in planting more than 11,000 trees during the first three years of the program. Through proper species selection and placement (aka Right Tree, Right Place), participating communities planted trees with some of those planting costs offset through contributions from the 10,000 TREES program. One key facet of the planting was ensuring that trees were utility-line compatible.

Building upon that success and with many empty spaces still remaining within served communities, National Grid (the successor to NMPC) was pleased to continue assisting communities in their street replanting projects in the form of the 10,000 TREES … AND GROWING program. Utility-compatible, low-growing trees planted successfully under overhead electric lines that are accepted under the guidelines of the program receive a contribution reimbursement of $50/tree from National Grid.

with Betsy henry
One of NYSUFC’s founding members and head of ReTree Schenectady, Dr. Betsy Henry, is presented by National Grid’s Brian Skinner with a reimbursement check for trees planted within 10,000 Trees … and Growing program guidelines.

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The Red Hook Way, Part II: Cost-Share Grant Success

In 2011, the Town of Red Hook Tree Commission successfully applied for a Round 10 NYS DEC Urban and Community Forestry Cost-Share grant that they used for a tree inventory and tree planting.

Victoria Rolfe and Nancy Gurski working on the Town of Red Hook's tree inventory. Photo courtesy Red Hook Tree Commission
Victoria Rolfe (standing) and Nancy Guski working on the Town of Red Hook’s tree inventory. Photos courtesy Red Hook Tree Commission

The example provided by the excellent Red Hook Grant NARRATIVE will be of interest to your community as you prepare your cost-share grant applications for Round 13 later this year (stay tuned to NYSDEC’s web page about the grants for the timetable).

After the grant monies were put to use in 2011-2013, Red Hook Tree Commission Chair Nancy Guski prepared a final report that follows. Along with the grant narrative linked above, this report is recommended reading for any community thinking about applying for cost-share grants later in 2015.

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For NY Communities with New UF Programs: Quick Start Grant Apps Due Dec 2, 2014

Shantung maple (Acer truncatum) on Canisius College campus in Buffalo. Photo by Michelle Sutton
Shantung maple (Acer truncatum) on Canisius College campus in Buffalo. Photo by Michelle Sutton

QUICK START GRANTS! 

“The New York State Urban Forestry Council has taken another major step forward in its mission to support the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Urban and Community Forestry Program. As one of the most active councils in the United States, we are very excited about administering a grant program that is designed to help New York State communities celebrate Arbor Day and make efforts toward attaining Tree City USA status.” —Andy Hillman, President, NYSUFC

The NYS Urban Forestry Council is pleased to announce available funding for projects in small communities (population up to 65,000) to have an Arbor Day event and begin a community forestry program. This funding is provided by the USDA Forest Service and the New York State DEC Urban Forestry Program.

Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to communities or non-profits that work in partnership with municipalities to celebrate Arbor Day 2015 and form a shade tree committee within the municipality.

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