Protecting Community and Urban Forestry in the Federal FY18 Budget
From the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition
Last month, the Administration released its proposed FY18 budget. At SUFC, we were deeply concerned about the devastating impact that the proposed budget would have on America’s urban and community forests. The SUFC Policy Working Group, spearheaded by Rebecca Turner of American Forests and Danielle Watson of the Society of American Foresters, submitted written testimony to the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, in which SUFC urged Congress to take a stand for programs that support urban and community forests and have proven track records of generating economic growth, reducing energy use, improving air and water quality, enhancing human health, and saving millions of taxpayer dollars.
Of profound concern is the zeroing out of the Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) Program, the SUFC’s top priority among USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry programs. Defunding the U&CF Program would halt and reverse decades of progress in urban and community forestry.
The U&CF provides technical, financial, research, and educational support to help communities across the nation plant and care for trees. Working with state foresters and a variety of other partners, U&CF is a high-impact program, with federal funding often leveraged by matching funds from states and partner organizations for collaborative projects, including preparing for storms, containing pest threats, and improving forest cover. SUFC has recommended that U&CF be funded at $31.3 million in the FY18 budget, consistent with our requests in recent years. Our recommendation coincides with the minimum funding needs identified in the National Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council.
In addition to defunding this core program for urban and community forests, the Administration’s budget also proposes to eliminate or reduce several other Forest Service programs important to SUFC. The proposed budget recommends defunding the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, which helps communities establish and protect community forests. It also proposes substantial funding cuts for Forest Health Management, particularly on non-federal lands, and a 16 percent cut for Research and Development. SUFC’s testimony also expressed support for programs falling under other agencies, such as the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Funds (for which we proposed funding consistent with FY17), and the National Park Service’s Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program, the primary federal investment tool promoting access to urban forests in parks and open space.
As the budget process moves forward, SUFC will continue to strongly advocate for a budget that recognizes the collective environmental, social, and economic value of our nation’s 138 million acres of urban and community forestry lands. We will continue to urge Congress to restore funding that will ensure future generations enjoy the benefits of urban forestry programs that foster healthy, vibrant communities.
Paul Ries and Gerry Gray
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