Urban Trees on the Hill
It’s been a busy week for those in the urban forest community. To start the week, the National Academy of Sciences held a workshop on urban forestry. Experts from around the country gathered to discuss the benefits of urban forests and how to best leverage them to move research and policies forward.
On Wednesday, the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC), of which American Forests is a member of the steering committee, held its annual Advocacy Day where participants from across the country met with their members of Congress to talk about urban forests. Once gathered, we got a quick rundown of the political environment on the Hill and what to expect meeting with staffers. With sequestration and budget cuts on everyone’s mind, the coalition’s objective was to make sure that Congress got the connection between federal funding for urban forest programs and the benefits to their local communities.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program and Forest Health Management Program are essential for technical and financial assistance to more than 7,000 communities in all 50 states. Other programs like Urban Natural Resources Research and Early Plant Pest Detection and Surveillance found in the Farm Bill help urban forest management by making sure communities have the most up-to-date information to best care for trees in their areas.
I was the team lead for a group of folks from the Midwest, accompanying them to their various meetings on the Hill. They were quite knowledgeable about these programs. Not in the same way I learned about them in D.C., but because they received federal funding to do urban forest work in their local communities. One of my team members, Lydia Scott from Lisle, Ill., works at the Morton Arboretum. The Morton Arboretum is one of the best tree research centers in the country that helps inform everyone from landscape architects to public officials. Lydia brought brochures that were created through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding to inform citizens and communities in the greater Chicago area about emerald ash borer (EAB), which is a huge problem in the Midwest. (For more on emerald ash borer, see the American Forests magazine feature “Will We Kiss Our Ash Goodbye?”) With the help of USDA funding, these brochures help people identify affected trees and provide them with information and options for how to treat their trees.
Daniella Pereira from Openlands was also part of my group. I learned that the Openlands TreeKeeper program (partly funded by the U.S. Forest Service) helps train volunteers in the Chicago area to take care of trees, especially those affected by EAB. Not only does this program help trees, but it also gives citizens knowledge and skills that they can use later in life. It also provides them the opportunity to engage with their community while building a sense of land stewardship.
It was amazing to see how federal funding really does trickle down to local communities, and I felt appreciative and humbled to actually meet folks doing this great work on the ground.