Washington, DC (November 12, 2013) – The federal budget process for determining FY 2014 funding has been unpredictable, surprising, and anxiety-filled this year. ACTrees learned recently from Forest Service colleagues that funding for the agency’s Urban & Community Forestry (U&CF) Program was in greater jeopardy than we thought during the federal government shutdown. What happened and why is your help needed?
As Congress sought various avenues to resolve the 16-day shutdown, it appeared for a few days as if Senate leaders might accept the House version of the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill as part of a broad compromise. The House version of the bill, which includes funding levels for the Forest Service, the Department of Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency, contained deep cuts in many conservation and environment programs.
The House bill proposed to virtually eliminate funding for the U&CF Program, as well as cutting Forest Service State and Private Forestry programs such as Forest Legacy and Forest Stewardship. The Senate version of the bill, by comparison, included relatively strong funding for these programs, consistent with recent funding levels.
Many U&CF advocates, including ACTrees, expected that program funding would be restored through a House-Senate conference committee or a Continuing Resolution that would support the U&CF Program at current funding levels.
But the unexpected nearly happened during those few days when Senate leaders considered accepting the House funding proposals. The U&CF Program came closer to losing its annual funding than it has for many years. Fortunately, Senate and House leaders passed a Continuing Resolution that lifted the shutdown and kept all federal programs, including the U&CF Program, at current funding levels until mid-January.
What does this mean for urban forestry advocates? It’s time to step up our efforts, and to reassert the advocacy strategy that ACTrees created with our partners in the Sustainable Urban Forestry Coalition prior to the shutdown.
We need the help of all ACTrees’ member and partner organizations to reinvigorate outreach to congressional representatives, particularly those on Appropriations Committees to advocate for the U&CF Program. Over the coming weeks, ACTrees will reach out to members with specific information and strategies for this advocacy effort. For now, learn more about ACTrees FY2014 Budget Recommendations.