FY22 House and Senate Interior Appropriations Testimony

Written Testimony of the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriation’s Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

May 12, 2021

The Honorable Jeff Merkley
Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

The Honorable Chellie Pingree
House Subcommittee on Appropriations
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski
Ranking Member
Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

The Honorable David Joyce
House Subcommittee on Appropriations
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Dear Chairs, Merkley and Pingree and Ranking Members, Murkowski and Joyce:

The undersigned organizations, many of which are members of the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC), thank you for the FY 2021 funding boost for the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program and urge you to continue championing robust funding for programs that support and protect neighborhood and community trees and green infrastructure. SUFC comprises more than 35 national organizations and corporations representing hundreds of thousands of professionals—and millions of supporters—who are passionate about trees and green infrastructure in our nation’s communities.

Our nation’s current and expanding 138 million acres of urban trees and forests are vital to creating and maintaining healthy, livable communities of all sizes by providing many scientifically proven social, economic, and environmental benefits to people. The ability to reduce air pollution and stormwater runoff, decrease energy consumption, mitigate the heat island effect, and improve human health are just a few of the essential services trees provide to communities. In fact, every year community trees and forests provide $18.3 billion in cost savings related to reductions in air pollution, energy use, and greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, urban trees and forests are one of the very few resources that can connect the Administration’s priorities regarding climate change, environmental justice, and workforce development as specified in EO 14008, EO 13985, and the American Jobs Plan, respectively.   Bold investments now in underserved neighborhoods across the country will drive job growth and greenhouse gases reductions while building the next generation of stewards and creating community resilience.

The federal support and leadership through the USDA Forest Service and overarching Urban and Community Forestry program leverages funds ranging from two to five times for each dollar invested in projects and grants. The federal “seed” money is often the key to implementing these programs at the state and local level. Most smaller communities do not have the resources to practice urban tree management. The federal funds utilized by the states provides the resources to initiate their programs to manage trees for the optimal return on investment through tree benefits. These same funds set the bar for urban tree management in larger communities and at the state level, reducing redundancy and allowing consistency of care across the nation. The cumulative benefit to the country from each community achieves a national improvement to be recognized at the federal level.

USDA Forest Service: State and Private Forestry
  •  Urban and Community Forestry Program (U&CF)

U&CF directly assists state government, nonprofit organizations, and partners that manage and steward our nation’s urban and community forests. Working with the state forestry agencies, the program provides technical, financial, research, and educational support and services to local government, nonprofit organizations, community groups, educational institutions, and tribal governments.

In FY 2020, U&CF assisted 7,589 urban and rural communities and over 203 million people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, US Territories, and affiliated Pacific Island Nations.

U&CF is a high-impact program and a smart investment, as federal support is often leveraged 2:1 (or in many cases up to 5:1) by states and partner organizations. For example, over 1.3 million volunteer hours were documented for the program in 2020. U&CF engages residents in cities and towns, brings together diverse partners with public and private resources, and demonstrates that federal investment can have huge and lasting impacts on communities of all sizes. Despite pandemic-related shutdowns, cancellations and postponements, U&CF found new, creative, and innovative ways of delivering the program in 2020, for the well-being and quality of life of residents in cities and towns across the nation, territories, and islands.

The undersigned deeply appreciate appropriator’s strong support and understanding of the program’s diverse and unique benefits. The programmatic increase provided in FY 2021 is actively helping to prevent and address outbreaks of devastating pests—like the emerald ash borer and sudden oak death—and reducing the loss of trees and forests in both urban and rural areas.

The undersigned are committed to the success and growth of this program in FY 2022 and beyond. For context, we would like to highlight the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan, which estimated annual funding needs in the range of approximately $85 million to maintain current levels of service and manage future increases in our urban forests.

  • Forest Health Management – Cooperative Lands

To be most effective, the USDA Forest Health Management program must address pests where they are first found, which is almost always in urban or semi-rural forests. This pattern means that the initial responsibility for countering non-native pests falls primarily to the Cooperative Forest Health Management program. This program supports partners’ efforts to prevent, monitor, suppress, and eradicate insects, diseases, and invasive plants through technical and financial assistance to state forestry agencies who deal directly with private forest owners. Funding for this partnership has seen a 50% cut from FY10 despite rising numbers of pests. For example, during this period the spotted lanternfly and beech leaf disease have been introduced to the Mid-Atlantic region and rapid ohia death pathogen to Hawai`i.

Once established in cities, the non-native pests and pathogens spread to forests in rural and wildland areas and threaten National Forests. For example, since its introduction a century ago, white pine blister rust has spread throughout the West; 74 percent of the nation’s threatened whitebark pine grows within National Forests. Since the 1950s, hemlock wooly adelgid has spread to forests from Georgia to West Virginia and now threatens Manistee National Forest in Michigan. Within 20 years of its first detection, the emerald ash borer has spread from the Detroit area to kill trees in many forests across the Northeast and Midwest. Over an even shorter period, the polyphagous and Kuroshio shot hole borers have entered the Cleveland National Forest.

We are pleased that the FHP program has established an “emerging pest” line, which in FY2021 is funded at $500,000. Proposals are currently under review. There will be steep competition to fund projects addressing, among others, the invasive shot hole borers in California, the coconut rhinoceros beetle in Hawai’i, and new beech leaf disease killing beech trees from Ohio to Connecticut. The undersigned recommend $51 million for Cooperative Lands under the Forest Health Management program in FY 2022.

  • Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR)

National priority Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) projects are a key tool that states, in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service and other partners, address critical forest priorities across the landscape. LSR projects focus on the most critical priorities identified in each state’s Forest Action Plan and on achieving national goals as laid out in the State and Private Forestry national themes. The competitive grant process ensures innovative approaches to restoration work are proposed and priority is given to projects that further the advancement of State Forest Action Plans. Therefore, LSR contributes to achieving results across the landscape and making meaningful local, regional, and national impacts. The undersigned recommend $20 million for the Landscape Scale Restoration program in FY 2022.

  • Community Forests and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP)

CFP helps local government entities, tribes, and nonprofit conservation organizations purchase forestland for local ownership and management. Since FY 2014, Congress has appropriated $20.3 million to the program and a total of 63 projects have been awarded in 21 states, Puerto Rico, and to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In total, CFP funds have been used to conserve over 16,000 acres through 2019.

CFP prioritizes projects that meet locally identified community needs for natural resource protection, forest-based economic development, and public access. Local residents play the lead role in conservation, stewardship, and governance of any lands acquired with CFP funds. The undersigned recommend at least $5 million for CFP in FY 2022.

USDA Forest Service: Forest and Rangeland Research

Improving the health—and maximizing the economic, social, and environmental benefits—of our nation’s trees requires a strong investment in USDA Forest Service Research and Development (R&D). In addition, protecting those benefits requires effective programs to prevent, suppress, and eradicate non-native insects, diseases, and plants, which depend on understanding of the pest-host relationship gained through research. The undersigned recommend at least $320 million for the overall R&D program for FY 2022.

  • Urban and Community Forestry Research

The Forest Service R&D program provides critical financial support for urban forestry research activities to develop information and tools for understanding conditions and trends in our nation’s urban and community forests. USDA Forest Service researchers have made huge strides in recent years through collaborative efforts to develop new tools—such as i-Tree—for mapping current tree cover, assessing trends, developing local strategies, and building greater understanding of the environmental, economic, and social services that trees and forests provide to communities. The undersigned urge you to continue including language in Interior Appropriations reports encouraging the USDA Forest Service to maintain a strong and vibrant urban forest research program.

  • Non-Native Insects and Diseases Research

Funding for research conducted by USFS on ten non-native pests decreased from $10 million in FY 2010 to just $2.5 million in FY 2020—more than 70 percent. As a result of these reductions, the USFS’s ability to develop and implement effective tools to manage the growing number of pests threatening the health of the nation’s forests has been crippled. Programs targeting hemlock woolly adelgid, white pine blister rust, and the Sirex woodwasp were cut in recent years. Programs targeting several other high-impact pests, including the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer, goldspotted oak borer, thousand cankers disease, laurel wilt, and sudden oak death have been funded at a steady rate. Effective measures depend on an understanding of both the pest’s biology and factors that motivate people to avoid activities that facilitate pests’ spread. The undersigned urge you to include language in the Interior Appropriations report encouraging the USDA Forest Service to increase funding for research targeting non-native insects and pathogens.

  • Urban Forests in Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA)

The collaborative efforts between SUFC and the USDA Forest Service brought urban forest data into the mainstream of the agency’s national data-collection program. FIA has long provided the nation’s forest census, but it had not historically included urban areas because of its definition of forests. The undersigned recommend at least $93.5 million (with no less than $32.4 million in program funding) for the FIA program in FY 2022, based on “Option C” from the 2015 FIA Strategic Plan. With that funding level, we ask you to encourage the USDA Forest Service to continue and strengthen its efforts to integrate urban forest data into FIA so that its critical data-collection efforts address all our nation’s forests. We also urge this subcommittee to ensure that funding increases for FIA do not come at the expense of other Forest Service R&D programs.

National Park Service
  • Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP)

The State and Local Assistance Program provides matching grants to states and localities for protection and development of parks and recreation resources. It is the primary federal investment tool to ensure that families have easy access to urban forests in parks and open space, as well as neighborhood recreation resources. This nationally competitive program complements the existing state and local assistance program by creating opportunities for outdoor play while developing or enhancing outdoor recreation partnerships in cities. The undersigned request robust funding for the state and local assistance program, which includes $125 million for ORLPP in FY 2022.  

Environmental Protection Agency
  • Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF)

Green infrastructure, including urban forests, can be a cost-effective and resilient approach to managing stormwater. The use of green infrastructure for stormwater control also provides many community co-benefits enumerated above. We are pleased that EPA supports the use of green infrastructure for stormwater management and that green infrastructure is an eligible use under the CWSRF—a critical financing program for local communities investing in water infrastructure. The undersigned support robust funding for CWSRF, along with efforts to expand the use of green infrastructure to 20% to meet Clean Water Act goals.

Supporting Organizations

Alliance for Community Trees

American Forests

American Society of Consulting Arborists

Arbor Day Foundation

California ReLeaf

California Urban Forests Council

Casey Trees

Center for Invasive Species Prevention

City Parks Alliance

Corazon Latino

Davey Tree Expert Company

Green Infrastructure Center

International Society of Arboriculture

Maryland Forestry Foundation

Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee

National Association of Clean Water Agencies

National Association of Landscape Professionals

National Association of State Foresters

National Recreation and Park Association


The Nature Conservancy


Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

Sacramento Tree Foundation

SavATree LLC

Society of American Foresters

Society of Municipal Arborists

Tree Care Industry Association

Water Environment Foundation

Wildlife Habitat Council