Washington, DC (December 16, 2013) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget bill by a significant margin last week crafted by a bipartisan effort of the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs, Rep. Paul Ryan (R- WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). The U.S. Senate is taking up the bill today, and Congressional leaders hope to pass it by week’s end. If passed, the budget deal is expected to allow for increased spending in domestic discretionary programs, including programs of the U.S. Forest Service such as the Urban and Community Forestry Program (U&CF).
While the budget deal seems to be good news, the actual program funding levels will not be set until after the budget bill is passed. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will have until January 15th, when the current Continuing Resolution expires, to pass their FY 2014 funding bills.
It’s possible the Appropriations Committees will choose not to pass a new bill for FY 2014 Interior and Environment appropriations, which include the Forest Service and U&CF, as well as the EPA. In that case, Congress might adopt a Continuing Resolution that would fund these Interior and Environment programs until the end of FY 2014, likely at levels consistent with current levels.
While the bipartisan budget deal is promising, now is NOT the time to sit back. Federal funding for urban and community forestry is at greater risk than it’s been since the 1980s, when the program first began. Remember, funding for the Forest Service’s U&CF Program was zeroed out earlier this year in the House’s proposed FY 2014 budget—and can be again.
As community tree advocates, what can you do?
- Reach out to your congressional representative AND mobilize your constituency to do the same.
- Make an appointment to talk to your representative or their key staff person when they are back in their home districts.
- Craft a letter to your congressional representative outlining your organizations successes and impacts.
The message is simple: Urban trees provide immense benefits to our communities. Federal support of urban and community forestry programming underscores our national urban forestry network and brings direct value to our door. The Urban and Community Forestry Program MUST be a part of the FY 2014 budget (at no less than FY 2013 levels of $31.3 million). In addition, strong investment in urban natural resources research is key to comprehensive planning for healthy and sustainable communities.
Bring-it-home: Make the connections between federal funding and your community urban forests. Get sample talking points and more background information.