FY23 UCF Support Letter

Federal Programs Supporting Urban and Community Forests and Trees

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 gasses.

Furthermore, urban trees and forests are one of the very few resources that connect climate change, environmental justice, and workforce development priorities. Bold investments in underserved neighborhoods across the country will drive job growth and greenhouse gas reductions while building the next generation of stewards and creating community resilience.

The federal support and leadership of the USDA Forest Service and the overarching Urban and Community Forestry program leverages funds from state governments and partner organizations ranging from two to five times for each federal 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 provide 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 Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (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. The following federal programs, identified by SUFC members, support and protect neighborhood and community trees and green infrastructure in communities of all sizes across the country. 

USDA Forest Service: State and Private Forestry

Urban and Community Forestry Program (UCF)

UCF directly assists state governments, 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 governments, nonprofit organizations, community groups, educational institutions, and tribal governments.

In FY 2021, UCF distributed $32 million in funding to state forestry agencies and non-profit partners—helping 7,100 communities perform tree inventories, prepare management plans, and train staff and community residents in tree planting and tree care. UCF 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 907,825 hours of volunteer service were donated in support of UCF-funded projects in 2021. UCF 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.

In addition, the federal UCF program received a $2.5 million bump to deliver a State Urban Forest Resilience grant program to help communities threatened and impacted by destructive pests, such as the emerald ash borer (EAB). Eighteen projects across 19 states and the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam were chosen for support in 2021, including:

  • The Montana Urban Forest Equity Initiative, which will target investment into high-risk neighborhoods to alleviate the impacts of climate change, promote health equity, and bring forest benefits to all people;
  • The Restoration of Urban Tree Cover in EAB-Stricken Kansas Communities, a project that will address tree canopy loss caused by EAB through the planting of 500 new trees in racially diverse, economically challenged, and underserved neighborhoods where tree benefits are needed most;
  • The Minnesota Resilient Trees, Resilient Communities project, a joint venture of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and its non-profit partner Tree Trust, which sets out to provide resources for tree planting and equitable career development;
  • The Reforestation of Urban Vermont Affected by EAB project, a state initiative that will set up a competitive municipal grant program to support planting of tree species other than ash around public right-of-ways and in public places, such as parks and village greens; and
  • The Puerto Rico Forest Fire Prevention and Native Forest Regeneration project, which will eradicate invasive grasses in fire prone areas of Guánica and plant 6,000 mature native tree and shrub species. The project will increase environmental stewardship by engaging volunteers from local schools, communities, and organizations in reforestation efforts.
FY 2021 Enacted FY 2022 Enacted+/- FY21 vs. FY22FY 2023 President’s Request+/- FY22 vs. President’s Request
$31.91 $36.00$4.09$31.91$4.09
all figures in millions

Forest Health Management – Cooperative Lands

To be most effective, the USDA Forest Service Forest Health Management program must address pests where they are first found, which is almost always in urban or semi-rural forests. A recent study projects that 1.4 million street trees will be killed by introduced pests over the next 30 years. Municipalities on the forefront include Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin; the Chicago area; Cleveland, Ohio; and Baltimore, Towson, and Salisbury, Maryland. Removing and replacing these trees will cost cities an estimated $30 million. Responsibility for assisting local and state efforts to protect these urban forests falls primarily to the Cooperative FHM 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.

Once established in cities, the non-native insects and pathogens spread to forests in rural and wildland areas. Already, an estimated 41% of forest biomass in the lower 48 states is threatened by just 15 established pests. The damage will rise as additional damaging pests continue to be introduced. Clearly, these pests undermine nature-based solutions to our changing climate. Half of the nation’s forests – 80% in the East – are privately owned. To protect carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services, it is essential that these landowners receive expert advice from the Forest Health Management program on how best to manage their forests in the face of the growing pest threat.

These pests also threaten National Forests. Three-quarters of whitebark pine trees threatened by white pine blister rust grow within National Forests. Since the 1950s, hemlock woolly adelgid has spread to National Forests from Georgia to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Within 20 years of its detection, the emerald ash borer had spread from Detroit to many National Forests across the Northeast and Midwest. Over an even shorter period, the polyphagous and Kuroshio shothole borers and goldspotted oak borers have entered the Cleveland National Forest. 

The Forest Service has established an “emerging pest” line within the FHM account. In FY 2022, projects funded by this subprogram are addressing threats from balsam woolly adelgid in Michigan, beech leaf disease across the Northeast, oystershell scale in the Southwest, goldspotted oak borer in California, and rapid ohia death in Hawai`i. 

In adopting the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress has provided welcome additional funding to address these pest challenges. The Forest Health Management program is working with state foresters and other stakeholders to identify priority pest-management goals that should receive funding through this program.

FY 2021 Enacted FY 2022 Enacted+/- FY21 vs. FY22FY 2023 President’s Request+/- FY22 vs. President’s Request
all figures in millions

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, use to 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. Use of 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. 

FY 2021 Enacted FY 2022 Enacted+/- FY21 vs. FY22FY 2023 President’s Request+/- FY22 vs. President’s Request
all figures in millions

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. In FY 2021, the agency awarded 10 new grants to communities in nine states, totaling over 2,000 acres. Since the first grant in FY 2012, the program has protected 24,900 acres. 

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. 

Forest Service-funded research recently documented the wide-ranging economic, social, and conservation benefits of 17 community forests in 12 states and Puerto Rico. The data proved that CFP helps create and support healthy, flourishing communities through access to amenities for recreation, education, and tourism; forest-based products (e.g., timber, maple syrup, and firewood); forest-based services (e.g., carbon sequestration, habitat, fire risk mitigation, and water quality); and economic development opportunities.

FY 2021 Enacted FY 2022 Enacted+/- FY21 vs. FY22FY 2023 President’s Request+/- FY22 vs. President’s Request
all figures in millions

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 the understanding of the pest-host relationship we gain through research. 

FY 2021 Enacted FY 2022 Enacted+/- FY21 vs. FY22FY 2023 President’s Request+/- FY22 vs. President’s Request
all figures in millions

Urban Forest and Sustainability Research

The Forest Service R&D program provides critical financial support for urban forestry research activities aimed at developing leading-edge science and decision tools to inform the stewardship of trees and forests and improving the health and well-being of people and communities. Forest Service urban research advances knowledge of forest systems, urban ecology, ecosystem services and values, invasive insects and diseases, and the role of green spaces and their stewardship in improving quality of life and strengthening civil society. It provides an early alert system  and tracks conditions and trends over time as well as the nation’s strategic inventory of urban forest resources, including the ability of the urban forest to continue to provide critical ecosystem services and improve or maintain quality of life in urban areas. 

R&D tools, data, and investments provide the foundation for innovation in the urban forestry community. R&D investments in developing a diversified national urban wood economy have improved science, reduced barriers to access, and catalyzed collaboration. These investments have lead to substantial partnerships and improvements in urban wood utilization from local to national levels, with the ultimate goal of improving the value of what trees provide to communities at all stages of life, including its inevitable end of life. USDA Forest Service researchers have also made huge strides in recent years through collaborative efforts to develop new tools—such as i-Tree and Urban Tree Canopy Assessments—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. Other datasets and tools, such as Urban FIA and Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities, track conditions and trends over time.  All of these publicly accessible and transparent national datasets and initiatives also provide the foundation for NGO and private-sector innovation, helping to support the development of tools, such as American Forests’ treeequity.org and others.

Non-Native Insects and Diseases Research

Funding for research conducted by USFS on 10 non-native pests has been cut by more than 50% since FY 2010. The proposed $4.4 million allocation in FY 2023 will allow at least partial restoration of programs for some species, including sudden oak death, white pine blister rust, and hemlock woolly adelgid. Funding for oak wilt has been tripled to $190,000. Still, funding for these programs constitutes just 5.5% of overall R&D funding. It is vital that the Forest Service fund research at the levels needed to develop more effective tools to manage the growing number of pests threatening the health of the nation’s forests. Such effective measures depend on understanding both the pest’s biology and factors that motivate people to avoid activities that facilitate spread. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided a welcome infusion of funds to support research on these issues.

Urban Forests in Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA)

The collaborative efforts between SUFC and the USDA Forest Service helped expand the agency’s national data-collection program to include urban forest data. FIA has long provided the nation’s forest census, but it had not historically included urban areas because of its definition of forests. 

FY 2021 Enacted FY 2022 Enacted+/- FY21 vs. FY22FY 2023 President’s Request+/- FY22 vs. President’s Request
all figures in millions

Department of the Interior (DOI)

Civilian Climate Corps 

The Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) initiative would put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate. This initiative would expand DOI and USDA’s long-standing partnership, apprenticeship, and youth engagement programs to restore lands and waters, improve access to outdoor recreation, increase reforestation, and inventory cultural heritage and paleontology sites, among other activities. The president’s budget requests $63 million for the CCC initiative at the Department of Interior and USDA Forest Service for department-wide programs. 

FY 2021 Enacted FY 2022 Enacted+/- FY21 vs. FY22FY 2023 President’s Request+/- FY22 vs. President’s Request
all figures in millions

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 neighborhood recreation resources and easy access to urban forests in parks and open space . 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. 

FY 2021 Enacted FY 2022 EnactedFY22FY 2023 President’s Request+/- FY22 vs. President’s Request
all figures in millions

Environmental Protection Agency

Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF)

Green infrastructure is a distributed approach to water management that advances many community priorities – from air quality management to urban renewal. As a holistic approach that crosses traditional boundaries between federal programs, green infrastructure can most effectively be implemented by aligning the priorities and investments of relevant federal agencies.

The federal Clean Water Act authorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program to provide funds to states to finance water pollution control projects. Under the Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awards annual capitalization grants to each state to capitalize a state revolving fund, which the state can then use to provide financing for point source (wastewater and stormwater) and nonpoint source water pollution control projects. 

CWSRF requires the state to solicit – and fund to the extent available – projects that address green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency, or other environmentally innovative activities. States are also required to include such projects in their intended use, and these projects must comprise up to at least 10% of the federal capitalization grant amount (referred to by USEPA as the “Green Project Reserve”). 

EPA supports the use of green infrastructure for stormwater management and identifies green infrastructure as an eligible use for stormwater management under the CWSRF—a critical financing program for local communities investing in water infrastructure. While many states have met and, in some cases, have exceeded the green infrastructure requirement in the CWSRF, we strongly encourage all states to maximize green infrastructure projects and consider elevating this mandate at the state-level where possible.