(Sacramento, CA)- Sacramento Tree Foundation is working with elected officials of 28 local governments in six counties to double the region’s tree canopy over the next 40 years.
Category: Advocacy, Public Policy, Collaboration
This summer, after five years of discussion, research and an extensive stakeholder- and community-involvement campaign, a call to action and a work plan for each of the 28 local governments has been completed. This document, the Greenprint, includes guiding principles for cities and counties for maximizing the benefits of shade trees to save energy, improve air quality, retain storm water runoff and enhance community life. It also offers a step-by-step approach to increase levels of commitment in three key areas: management of public trees, policies and ordinances, and community partnerships. Official adoption of the Greenprint by city councils and county boards of supervisors is underway now and will be completed this fall.
Since its inception in 1982, Sacramento Tree Foundation has educated people about the importance of trees and mobilized them to plant and care for trees. Over time, its focus has shifted from the care and maintenance of individual trees to the importance of improving the urban forest – the complex ecosystem of trees and other vegetation that serves and supports the urban area.
* Community Shade, which plants and cares for more than 2,000 trees a year in schools, parks and streets
* Mistletoe, which helps residents remove this tree parasite
* NATURE, which replants native trees that have been lost to development or road widening
* NeighborWoods, which assists neighborhoods to organize community tree planting and maintenance
* Shade Tree Program, a partnership with a local utility to provide trees and education
* Save the Elms Program (STEP), which monitors for Dutch Elm disease and plants new disease-resistant elms
* Seed-to-Seedling, a curriculum for elementary school teachers on native oaks
* Greenprint, an advocacy campaign that builds support for doubling of region’s tree canopy over next 40 years
At a board retreat in January 1999, the Board of Directors of STF determined to take a broader, more coordinated approach to its efforts to improve the urban forest. As a result, it decided to launch a project to research and identify the needs of Sacramento trees and to set the agenda for community action to meet those needs.
This project resulted in two main findings:
* There was a need for a community-wide renaissance on the importance and benefits of the urban forest.
* The urban forest does not follow political boundaries. Any successful approach to managing the urban forest must be regional.
What followed was a five-year effort to learn more about the local benefits of the urban forest and how local governments could work together to grow the forest and maximize its benefits.
The campaign required two main paradigm shifts in community thinking. First, the community needed to look at the totality of the urban forest – the canopy of the trees and the ecology of the neighborhoods in which they were located – instead of at individual trees. Second, local governments needed to see their role as part of a regional effort rather than as isolated entities.
Beginning the Process
Sacramento Tree Foundation kicked off this campaign in 2000 by publishing the State of the Trees Report, which detailed the current situation in the region and put forth a vision for maximizing the benefits of the urban forest. The report was presented at a summit meeting of elected officials in 2001. As a result, elected officials representing 20 municipalities signed an Urban Forest Compact that proposed a shared vision and identified goals to optimize the region’s urban forest.
Over the next three years, STF launched an educational effort that resulted in a video and a brochure entitled “What’s the Value of a Tree.” STF worked with the U.S. Forest Service’s Center for Urban Forestry Research to gather local data on the value of trees and their financial value to the region.
During this same period, STF worked to develop a regional plan based on its previous work. Originally called the Sacramento Regional Urban Forest Framework, in 2004, the plan was renamed Greenprint to dovetail with the Sacramento Council of Government’s Blueprint plan for guiding land-use and transportation choices in the six-county area.
Beginning in 2005, residents and stakeholders throughout the 28 municipalities were invited to contribute their thoughts and ideas in reviewing the first draft of the Greenprint. Over 50 presentations were made to elected officials, civic groups, professional organizations, service clubs and general community meetings. Approximately 5,000 people participated.
A second summit of elected officials was held in June 2005 to receive additional input. The Greenprint is now finalized and awaiting adoption. Over the next few months STF will visit each city council and county board of supervisors in the region to persuade them to formally adopt the Greenprint. STF is encouraging community residents to send in endorsement forms and support letters to their local officials. Samples of both can be found on their web-site (www.sactree.com).
The next step is to establish a Greenprint Clearinghouse, managed by STF, which will offer technical, scientific and policy-making information and resources to assist cities and counties in implementing the plan. The Clearinghouse would:
* serve as an information resource center
* convene regional working groups
* sponsor community events and assist in the creation of new nonprofit urban forest organizations
* highlight successes and regional achievements and
* provide information and opportunities to fund new tree programs.
The Sacramento Regional Greenprint includes guiding principles for cities and counties for maximizing the benefits of shade trees to save energy, improve air quality, retain storm water runoff and enhance community life. It is not a master plan but rather a guide to help municipalities develop their own individual plans and work collaboratively with other entities.
The Greenprint offers a step-by-step approach to increase levels of commitment in three key areas: management of public trees, policies and ordinances and community partnerships. Flexibility is included so that each city and county can develop its own way to achieve progress in each of these areas.
This campaign has greatly increased the interest and knowledge in the region of the value and importance of trees. It has resulted in the development of data on the value and benefit of trees that is relevant to the local region and is delivered in understandable formats.
In addition, it has served as a catalyst for regional cooperation and has assisted in the development of a tree network of interested parties.
1. Be mission-based. Be clear where you want to go. Chase your dream, not dollars.
2. Remember the importance of stewardship. Trees need people and people need to be recognized. It is important to follow your passion but do not forget the importance of follow-up and maintenance work – with both trees and people.
3. It is crucial to do research on the benefits of trees that includes local data. There are a lot of numbers floating around, but they are not useful unless they relate to the local environment and are verifiable. The U.S. Forest Service’s Western Center for Urban Forestry Research was key in helping STF collect this data.
4. Make sure that reports and recommendations are relevant to the audience you are addressing. Do not write recommendations that the audience has no control over. The initial Greenprint is geared to local governments. The next step will be to write companion pieces for businesses, nonprofits and the community-at-large.
5. Make everyone a winner in your presentation. Be sure that there is some piece that they can identify with and say they are doing. No government wants to be identified as the entity that is doing nothing. The Greenprint is organized such that all the local governments addressed can see how they are currently working toward the solution.
6. Funding for advocacy projects such as these is difficult to obtain, yet these projects require an enormous amount of staff time and energy. STF was fortunate to obtain a $100,000 matching grant from the U.S. Forest Service in 2004 that allowed them to hire a full-time coordinator to work on Greenprint. This made a huge difference and allowed STF to present the report to elected officials and the rest of the community.
7. This is just the beginning! Implementation and the motivation of the broader community are essential to the project’s success.
Ray Tretheway, Executive Director
Sacramento Tree Foundation
201 Lathrop Way, Suite F
Sacramento, CA 95815
Phone: (916) 924-8733
Fax: (916) 924-3803
(c) 2005 Alliance for Community Trees