California Advocacy For Urban Forests Gets Results

Sacramento, CA (January 9, 2014) – Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a 2014-15 State Budget that includes $50 million of revenue from the State’s recently passed cap-and-trade program for fire prevention and urban forestry projects that help meet the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases.  This major accomplishment is thanks to consistent advocacy by California ReLeaf, California Urban Forests Council, and many others. The challenge now is ensuring urban forestry projects receive a fair share of the $50 million, assuming that amount works its way through the state’s budget process.

California state capitolThe proposed funding demonstrates the recognition of urban forestry projects as an important part of California’s plan to advance greenhouse gas reductions and strengthen communities–especially those most impacted by emissions–create jobs, and spur innovations.

Gov. Brown’s budget summary also notes the importance of “urban forests in disadvantaged communities.” The link between urban forests and disadvantaged communities has been important in discussions about policy priorities in California for using funds from the cap-and-trade revenues.

While details of the proposal are not known yet, it’s assumed that a good portion of the funds will also be used to meet the goals of SB 535 from 2012, which mandates that at least 25% of all cap and trade funds must benefit disadvantaged communities.

“The Governor’s budget proposal makes important investments in urban forestry that will help disadvantaged communities stay healthier, use less energy, and prosper. Our communities suffer the most from California’s urban heat islands, and this is one step toward solving that problem,” said Vien Truong, Environmental Equity Director for The Greenlining Institute.

As reported by California Releaf, the approach is being lauded by members of the State Senate and Assembly. “Urban forests should be a key component to California’s strategy to reduce GHGs and build healthy communities. Using cap and trade funds to help achieve this goal represents a sound, appropriate investment,” said Senator Lois Wolk (D-3rd District).

Palm_Trees_in_San_Jose_CaliforniaCalifornia ReLeaf worked directly with the SB 535 advocates in 2013 to demonstrate the strong connection between urban forestry and environmental justice. Urban forestry was also embraced as a priority for the Natural and Working Lands Coalition, and Sustainable Communities for All Coalition, which is focused on ensuring cap and trade funds are used for projects that also advance the goals of SB 375.

Over the next few months, CAL FIRE will likely adjust elements of their existing local assistance grant programs in urban forestry to meet additional requirements that come with the expenditure of these funds. The proposed allocation will be reviewed and voted upon by the Legislature through the budget subcommittees.

If the recommended level of funding is sustained, dollars will be available to CAL FIRE shortly after the State Budget is signed in July 2014 and, ultimately, to California’s communities in the form of local assistance grants. See the Governor’s Proposed Budget.

Source:Governor’s Budget Directs Millions for Local Projects” California Releaf Blog