Washington, DC (December 10, 2013) – ACTrees, along with its partners in the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC), participated in a dozen meetings with House leaders on December 4th to advocate for the Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program (U&CF). Hill visits were in response to action earlier this year by the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee which threatened to eliminate FY 2014 funding which provides support for regional, state, and local programs nationwide.
Appointments targeted bipartisan House leaders on the key Appropriations subcommittees that deal with urban forestry and green infrastructure, such as the Interior and Environment, Energy and Water, and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development subcommittees. In addition, advocates met with leaders on the House Agriculture Committee, which has key jurisdiction for authorizing U.S. Forest Service, State and Private Forestry programs, including U&CF.
While it is unlikely the U&CF Program will be eliminated as proposed in the earlier House bill, it is unclear whether it will be funded at near-current levels or at a substantially lower amount. The meetings, however, proved successful in building and strengthening relationships with Congressional members and staff, sharing information about the Forest Service’s U&CF Program, and learning more about the challenging context on Capitol Hill.
Congressional leaders are currently negotiating a broad budget deal which would guide FY 2014 funding levels. They might succeed before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on January 15th; if not, it is likely they will adopt another CR for much or all of FY 2014.
Our thanks to representatives from a variety of Virginia institutes for their participation that day, including Elizabeth Gilboy, Director of the VA Tech Community Design Assistance Center; Joan Comanor, Chair of the Shenandoah RC&D; Luck McCall, Arborist for the City of Richmond; Charlie Kline, Sr. Projects Manager for The Green Infrastructure Center in Charlottesville; Melissa Keywood, Staff to IEN, VaNRLI; and Kristina Bezanson, President of Trees Virginia.
One of the major policy challenges facing ACTrees, the SUFC, and all of our partners is to build greater awareness of the U&CF Program in Congress, and not just on the appropriations committees but on all committees that have an interest in urban forestry . . . which are many! The Program has a great potential for support, but it is small and little known.
ACTrees will be developing strategies and activities to address this challenge in 2014 and beyond, with its members and partners at the local level and the national level.