On February 6th, the President released his FY 2007 budget recommendations to Congress. The budget proposes $2 million in cuts to the national Urban and Community Forestry program operated by the USDA-Forest Service.
The Urban and Community Forestry program provides technical and financial assistance to communities in cooperation with State Forestry agencies. State cost-share grants for urban forestry, for example, are funded through this federal program.
While urban forestry is not the only program to see cuts, there are a couple of trends impacting U&CF specifically.
As in previous years, the President’s budget favors competitive programs over formula-based programs. The Urban and Community Forestry, Forest Stewardship, State Fire Assistance, and Cooperative Forest Health programs all received cuts partly because of their basis in formula distribution to states. In contrast, the Forest Legacy program received a $4.2 million increase for its competitive grants to states for land acquisitions. Despite development of a new performance-based allocation methodology in the last year, the Urban and Community Forestry program seems to still be viewed as formula-driven by the Administration.
Another factor in budget support is whether a program has vocal support from its constituents and users. Forest Legacy is extremely popular with Congress and has a strong, active base of conservation supporters and advocate organizations working for its growth. Have urban forestry fans been as vocal?
As people who love trees, we know that all of the Forest Service’s programs are important, whether they help preserve rural forest land or create opportunities for urban people to connect with nature in cities. But if your community has benefited from a grant, technical assistance, or other support through the Urban and Community Forestry program, you owe it to your community to speak up in support of this unique program. U&CF is the only Forest Service program geared toward addressing the needs of urban people in the places they live.