Note From the Chairs – Summer 2024

Coalition Updates

SUFC Welcomes New Leadership

At SUFC’s 19th Annual Meeting, SUFC welcomed Keith Wood as the new Chair of the Coalition. Keith served as Vice Chair prior to becoming Chair and brings his extensive expertise and experience with the National Association of State Foresters (NASF). Sophie Plitt, Senior Manager of National Partnerships at Natural Areas Conservancy will serve as Vice Chair. Sophie represents the first non-national SUFC member to serve as Vice Chair or Chair, reflecting SUFC’s commitment to broadening its membership to regional and local groups.

Keith and Sophie hope to expand membership, especially among local organizations to diversify the group; strengthen SUFC’s ties with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other federal agencies; and continue to foster networking opportunities among SUFC members to enhance collaboration and mutual support.

A heartfelt thank you to our previous Chair, Rachel Holmes, for her dedication and unwavering commitment to the field. We are especially grateful for her advocacy on behalf of tree maintenance in urban forestry. We wish her the best of luck as she pursues a new opportunity with the USFS Forest Health Protection Program – her mark on the Coalition will never be forgotten! 

SUFC’s Upcoming Virtual Engagement

SUFC’s Strategic Engagement and Networking Working Group is planning its first virtual Town Hall on June 27, 2024, from 1:00- 2:30 PM EDT. The Town Hall is a free online event aiming to foster conversations and provide insights into workforce development within the U&CF community. Speakers include: Moderator Jerri Taylor, formerly of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)Randy KrouseCity of Milwaukee Forestry divisionJasimine CooperLandforceLinda Appel LipsiusDenver Urban Gardens and Scott Estrada, House Committee on Education and the Workforce (Minority). Register HERE

Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 Appropriations Letter

On April 29, SUFC’s Policy Working Group sent a letter to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee requesting funding for the Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) program. The letter garnered robust support from 31 groups, including 15 national organizations and 16 state, regional, and local organizations.

SUFC Publishes Research Funding Rationale Document & Brief

The SUFC Research Working Group, in conjunction with a report from the National Urban and Community Forestry Council (NUCFAC), estimates $50 million in Research and Development funding is needed annually to scientifically measure impacts and learn from the recent Inflation Reduction Act U&CF investments. Topics to research include urban heat and flood reduction, public health improvement, climate resilience, and addressing the lack of accessible green space in underserved communities. The brief is available HERE, and the full report is available HERE.

House Agriculture Committee Passes Farm Bill Reauthorization

On May 24 2024, the House Committee on Agriculture, led by Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-PA), approved legislation to reauthorize the Farm Bill, sending the bill to the House floor for a potential vote. 

The viability of the Farm Bill reauthorization appears uncertain in the Senate. After disapproving the House’s Farm Bill legislation, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is focusing on her Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act, which pieces together over 100 bipartisan bills to fund programs under the Farm Bill. The Stabenow legislation has only been introduced as a framework, and it is unclear when the full text will be available. 

Given the partisan divide in the House and Senate, it is unknown whether both chambers can come to a consensus on final legislation to reauthorize the Farm Bill. If an agreement cannot be reached, both chambers will need to consider another extension to the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Recap: SUFC’s 19th Annual Meeting

On February 27 and 28, SUFC hosted several events as part of the 19th Annual Meeting. The first event was a Capitol Hill congressional briefing with urban forestry professionals moderated by Joel Pannell of American Forests. Panelists Kayla StuartCindy Blain, and Matt Spitsen discussed their respective research, leadership, and innovation in urban forestry with congressional staff in attendance. 

The 19th Annual Meeting was held the next day. Speakers at the day-long meeting included:

  • Beattra Wilson, USFS Associate Deputy Chief of State, Private, and Tribal Forestry, who presented exclusive information to help participants understand the historic Inflation Reduction Act investment; the USFS’s State, Private, and Tribal Forestry Division; equity initiatives; and inspiration for youth engagement; as well as
  • Carolyn Berndt, Legislative Director for Sustainability at the National League of Cities (NLC), and Sarah Gimont, Associate Legislative Director of Environment, Energy, and Land Use at the National Association of Counties (NACo), who provided creative opportunities for collaboration with SUFC.

Additionally, 2024 Networking Initiative Collaborators shared presentations centered around the theme of expansion, equity & collaboration in urban forestry. This year’s collaborators and presentations were: 

  • Urban Foresters: Stories from the Front Lines presented by Jamie King, The Urban and Community Forestry Society and Urban Forest Manager and University Arborist at Virginia Tech; and Rachel Habig-Myers, President of UCFS and Urban Forester with Fairfax County, Va.
  • Connecting Urban Forestry and Environmental Justice: Bridging the Gap Through DEIA presented by Felipe Benitez, Founder and Executive Director of Corazón LatinoHelen Cortés, Urban Forest Health & Partnership Program Manager at USFS; Stacy Whittle, Film Producer and Senior Technology Advisor at Corazón Latino. The film shared by Corazon Latino was recently a Silver Winner at the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) category at the Telly Awards. 
  • Urban and Community Forestry Experience and Initiatives with Industries, Public Health Institutions, and Environmental Justice Communities in the USA and Canadian Great Lakes presented by Daniel Goldfarb, Urban and Industrial Ecologist at Wildlife Habitat CouncilMichael Piskur, Program Director at Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers.
  • Protecting Urban Forested Natural Areas: Strategies for Conservation in Cities presented by Sam Lawson, National Partnerships Coordinator at Natural Areas Conservancy.

After the day-long meeting, SUFC returned to the U.S. Botanic Garden for an evening networking reception and heard from USFS Associate Chief Angela Coleman who highlighted the impressive impacts of Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funds in urban and community forestry.

The Annual Meeting and affiliated events would not be possible without the support of SUFC’s sponsors: the U.S. Forest Service, Bartlett Tree Experts, and Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

What We’re Reading: ‘Beyond the Golden Shovel

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Nature Based Solutions Institute collaborated on an article titled “Beyond the Golden Shovel: Recommendations for a Successful Urban Tree Planting Initiative.” Published in the Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA), this piece underscores the importance of urban tree planting initiatives (TPIs) in boosting city livability and sustainability.

We hope to see you at the Town Hall!

Keith Wood, SUFC Chair

Sophie Plitt, SUFC Vice Chair