Earlier this month, American Forests joined forces with other members of the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) and took to Capitol Hill to speak up for urban forests across the country.
As part of the SUFC annual “fly-in,” constituents from all over the country met up in D.C. to talk with their political representatives about their urban forests. Together, we held more than 40 meetings on the Hill, having discussions with staffers and sometimes even the congressional members themselves.
Throughout the fly-in, I went with a constituent from Minnesota to visit four different Minnesota offices. We met with staff from the offices of Congresswoman Bachmann, Congresswoman McCollum, Senator Franken and Senator Klobuchar. While each office provided a slightly different experience, it was encouraging that everyone we met with seemed supportive of urban forests.
So what exactly did we discuss?
As members of SUFC, we went to the Hill to talk about a few key areas of concern for the future of our urban forests.
1) The Vibrant Cities initiative – This initiative provides 12 recommendations as a “roadmap for action” to creating and sustaining healthy, sustainable, urban forests and building vibrant cities. For more on Vibrant Cities, see my previous blog post.
2) FY 2013 Interior Appropriations – Since the president’s FY 13 budget was released last month, we took this opportunity to comment on and discuss the funding levels for programs that are extremely important to the future of urban forests. These programs include:
- The USDA Forest Service’s Urban & Community Forestry Program, which provides financial and technical assistance to cities and towns as they develop their urban forests.
- The Forest Service’s Forest Health Management Program, which is crucial for surveying and monitoring the condition of urban-forest health, including early detection and rapid response to harmful insects and diseases.
- The Forest Service’s Research and Development Program, which provides funding for urban-forest research, such as forest structure and effects modeling, urban-watershed conservation and ecosystem service assessment tools (such as i-Tree).
- The Environmental Protection Agency’s Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which brings together 11 agencies to support the stewardship and local restoration efforts of urban watersheds.
3) The 2012 Farm Bill – The Farm Bill is reauthorized every five years and is up for reauthorization this year, so we took this opportunity to highlight the urban forests in the Farm Bill. Did you know that Forest Service programs that are critical for maintaining and developing urban forests are authorized by the Farm Bill?
I was proud to be a part of such an important effort to help raise the awareness of our policy makers about the benefits of urban forests and the importance of funding the programs that are crucial to creating and maintaining sustainable urban forests across the country. I am hopeful that our fly-in day will lead to productive outcomes and furthered support for our urban forests.