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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 (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.
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
For three years, the Council has been administering Arbor Day grants that provide funding to communities who wanted to have their first-ever Arbor Day celebrations and begin to build their urban forestry programs. These grants have benefited 37 New York communities whose inaugural Arbor Day celebrations you can read about here on the blog.
What about those municipalities or non-profits that have established programs and want to kick things up a notch (or many notches)? Here, colleagues to the Northwest advise on how to make sponsorship of programs and events a reality. With its current population of 472,000, Surrey, BC would rank as the 37th largest city in the U.S. Their successes as a large city with sponsorship came via strategies that are translatable to smaller communities. First, have a look at how Surrey, BC put this into practice with their annual Party for the Planet, a day-long celebration for their equivalent of Arbor Day in the U.S.
Story and images by Mark McPherson, Executive Director of the Urban Forest Carbon Registry
The urban forests of the U.S. are long overdue to earn certified carbon credits. Carbon buyers purchased $700 million in carbon credits in the U.S. over the last decade ($4.5 billion worldwide). Yet not a single dollar of that money can go to the trees in the cities and towns of America.
Everyone in urban forestry knows the documented benefits of ecosystem services provided by trees in cities, yet urban forests receive relatively little funding as municipalities struggle to meet basic utility and human service needs. Furthermore, urban tree canopy is being lost in many cities due to growth and development.
The Urban Forest Carbon Registry (the Registry) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is working to make it possible for urban tree planting and preservation projects to earn and sell carbon credits. Money from the sale of the credits would go directly to the projects that earned those credits.
The Registry has developed practical carbon protocols for urban forestry projects. These protocols, one for tree planting and one for tree preservation, will be the “rulebooks” that projects must follow to earn certified credits.
The Registry assembled a drafting group of national stakeholders from many areas of urban forestry including Greg McPherson, Scott Maco, and Andy Trotter to address the quantification issues—as well as representatives of municipal forestry, non-profit tree organizations, utilities, transportation professionals, and watershed experts. You can view the protocols on the Registry website at www.ufregistry.org.
Good news! For FY 2017-2018, Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget once again designates $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), including $1 million for urban forestry for the second year in a row. This will ensure another round of EPF/cost-share grants either later this year or in 2018.
NYS Urban Forestry Program Coordinator Mary Kramarchyk says, “These grants help large and small communities plant and maintain trees. Trees provide myriad ecological and economic benefits in addition to the aesthetic benefits most of us are aware of. Among these, trees sequester carbon, aid grey infrastructure in stormwater mitigation, and enhance the economic vitality of our downtown areas.”