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.

 

 

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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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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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.