August 2020 Note from the Chair

In This Issue

  • Federal Appropriations Update
  • Beattra Wilson Named Assistant Director, Urban & Community Forestry, U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Forest Service Provides Health Assessment on Philadelphia’s 2025 Tree Canopy Cover Goals
  • Biophilic Cities Journal Highlights the Value of Urban Forestry
  • Congress Considers Legislation Impacting Urban Forestry
  • U.S. House Committee on Climate Crisis Releases Report

Federal Appropriations Update

In July, the House passed the Interior Appropriations Bill, which included $40 million for the U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program, an $8 million increase over the current fiscal year. Of those funds, $2 million was allocated for reforestation efforts in urban communities most severely impacted by the Emerald Ash Borer. The Forest and Rangeland Research program also received a $6.8 million increase ($3.9 million for Forest Inventory and Analysis and $2.9 million for Research and Development). 

The House also passed its Agriculture Appropriations Bill, which funds the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The bill included $60.6 million for Tree and Wood Pests (an increase of $600,000 from last year) and $198.9 million for Specialty Crops (an increase of $6.9 million from last year).

The Senate has yet to pass any of its appropriations bills. Given the limited amount of time remaining in this session of Congress and the focus on pandemic relief, it’s likely that none will move until after the election. As a result, Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Beattra Wilson Named Assistant Director, Urban & Community Forestry, U.S. Forest Service

Beattra Wilson has been named Assistant Director of Urban and Community Forestry with the U.S. Forest Service. Ms. Wilson has been with the Forest Service since 2002 in various positions. Congratulations, Beattra! We look forward to working with you!

U.S. Forest Service Provides Health Assessment on Philadelphia’s 2025 Tree Canopy Cover Goals

In June, the U.S. Forest Service released a report looking at the connection between Greenworks Philadelphia’s efforts to increase the city’s tree canopy and the city’s mortality rates. The authors conducted the study to “estimate the annual premature mortality burden for adult residents associated with projected changes in tree canopy cover in Philadelphia between 2014 and 2025.” They found that more than 400 premature deaths could be avoided each year if the city meets its goal of increasing its tree cover by 30%.

Biophilic Cities Journal Highlights the Value of Urban Forestry

Biophilic Cities, a journal on innovation in urban nature, released its June 2020 issue, which focuses on Urban Forestry. Several of the articles within the issue, including the feature article, highlight the value of urban forestry and how critical urban forests will be in creating healthier cities.

Congress Considers Legislation Impacting Urban Forestry

Over the course of the past few months, several bills relating to urban and community forestry have seen movement in Congress. Below outlines legislation that SUFC members are tracking.

On August 4, President Trump signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act(GAOA) (H.R. 1957), which is being hailed as a “conservationist’s dream.” The bill provides nearly $10 billion for maintenance projects, repairs, and upgrades for the national parks and public lands systems as well as $900 million in guaranteed annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It is estimated that the outdoor recreation industry creates more than 5.2 million jobs and contributes more than $778 billion in national economic output. 

On July 1, The Residential Energy and Economic Savings (TREES) Act (H.R. 5615) passed the House as an amendment to H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act (legislation related to COVID-19). The TREES Act, introduced by Rep. Matsui (D-CA), would establish a grant program within the Department of Energy (DOE) for retail power providers to partner with local tree planting organizations to provide free or reduced-cost tree planting services to homeowners. The bill provides up to $5 million annually in grants, and DOE will prioritize neighborhoods where the average income is below the regional average. The bill would also create a new “Arbor City of America” award “to recognize communities for superior efforts in increasing tree canopy coverage and assisting residents in reducing energy costs.” While this bill is not currently moving forward in the Senate, its passage in the House is a major step forward. 

The Repairing Existing Public Lands by Adding Necessary Trees (REPLANT) Act was introduced in late July by Senators Udall (D-NM), Portman (R-OH), and Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Panetta (D-CA), Simpson (R-ID), Schrier (D-WA), and LaMalfa (R-CA). The bill modernizes the Reforestation Trust Fund, which was established by Congress in 1980 to replant national forests, by removing the antiquated $30 million cap on the program. If passed, 1.2 billion trees will be planted over the next decade to reforest 4.1 million acres of national forests. The REPLANT Act is estimated to create nearly 49,000 jobs. 

U.S. House Committee on Climate Crisis Releases Report

In June, the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis released its “Solving the Climate Crisis” report that lays out the framework for comprehensive congressional action to address the impacts of climate change, reduce carbon pollution, and create a durable and equitable clean energy economy. The report included many initiatives important to SUFC, such as: 

  • Renewing the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC);
  • Increasing funding for the Urban and Community Forestry Program; 
  • Increasing funding for the Vibrant Cities Lab and providing financial incentives for cities to adopt Urban Forestry Management Plans; 
  • Establishing a Tree Equity program to increase tree canopy in environmental justice communities by providing grants for tree planting and prioritizing underserved cities and neighborhoods as a complement to the technical assistance provided by the UCF program; 
  • Investing in workforce development and training programs, such as AmeriCorps, and pre-employment programs that link underserved populations with urban forestry careers; 
  • Creating a new DOE grant program for energy providers to offer homeowners free or reduced-cost tree-planting services; and 
  • Supporting long-term staff in communities to continue to maintain and enhance reforestation efforts.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more updates and news on urban forestry!