Federal Update on Urban & Community Forestry Legislation

Washington, DC (August 23, 2007)- In late June, the House of Representatives passed Interior and Environment Appropriations for fiscal year 2008 that would restore funding to a wide array of conservation and environmental protection programs. The House provided $355 million above the President’s budget request to the U.S. Forest Service, including a small budget increase for the Urban and Community Forestry Program, which would result in a $31,130,000 national budget for U&CF.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a similar figure for U&CF, though the full Senate has not yet voted. The Senate Appropriations Committee reported $30,846,000 for the Urban and Community Forestry Program, inclusive of $550,000 in earmarks for reforestation programs in Chicago and Indianapolis.
U&CF advocates nationwide made their voices heard this year, and we encourage advocates to continue to communicate the value of urban forestry to their elected officials. Over 170 state and local groups joined in the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition request supported by Alliance for Community Trees, International Society of Arboriculture, American Public Works Association, and many other national organizations. We heard positive confirmation from Hill staff that the message reached its target.
President Bush has threatened to veto the 2008 appropriations for Interior, Environment and the U.S. Forest Service because the bill came in $2 billion over the President’s request. If the bill is vetoed or delayed, the agency will continue to operate under a continuing resolution. The outlook for the President’s FY 2009 budget for the Forest Service is especially grim. It is expected that sharp cuts to State and Private Forestry Programs will be issued across the board next February by the agency. The U&CF program budget is quite vulnerable and may be zeroed out in the agency’s FY 2009 budget. Urban forestry advocates should prepare for a robust push to restore funding next year, as was required this year.
This summer, with support from California’s community forestry advocates, freshman Congresswoman Doris Matsui drafted legislation that would encourage utility companies to partner with communities to plant trees for energy conservation. Many had hoped that the Energy Efficiency Through Trees Act would be attached to the energy bill passed in August. Congresswoman Matsui is exploring other means of enacting the legislation, which seeks to replicate the successful energy partnership developed by Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the Sacramento Tree Foundation. When the next opportunity arises, we will alert California ReLeaf Network members for how they can help support its passage.
The far-reaching energy bill passed in the House in early August did include a section that relates to carbon sequestration, forestry, and urban forests. The “Federal Government Inventory and Management of Greenhouse Gas Emissions” legislation:
* Orders the BLM and Forest Service to record the net biological sequestration or emission of greenhouse gases related to human activities and associated with land managed by the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service.
* Orders the Forest Service, BLM, National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct studies and identify management strategies to enhance biological sequestration and reduce the negative impacts of global warming on biodiversity, water supplies, forest health, biological sequestration and storage, and related values.
* Orders the Forest Service to conduct a study of the opportunities of urban and wildland-urban interface forestry programs to enhance net biological sequestration of greenhouse gases and achieve other benefits.
The Alliance for Community Trees is optimistic that working together, urban and community forestry proponents can restore funding for existing programs, such as those in the Forest Service, and seek out new opportunities presented by the nation’s renewed interest in climate change, energy conservation, and urban revitalization.
Please consider taking the time to visit with the local district office of your Congressional or Senate members. Brief them now about the value of urban forests so that when you come back during budget season, they will know who you are and be more inclined to give the matter consideration.
Related Resources:
FY08 coalition statement
Senate FY08 Interior Appropriations Bill
Energy Efficiency Through Trees Act
Inventory and Management of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (see pg. 1 Green Jobs, and pg. 16 Study on Urban and Wildland)