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

2017-11-08 (1)
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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CALL TO ACTION! From Council President David Moore

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SAVE OUR URBAN FORESTS MONDAYS! 
Dear Readers,

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