October 2018 Note from the Chairs

We hope your autumn is off to a great start, even if (depending on where you’re located!) temperatures are just now bringing to mind changing colors and falling leaves. This month’s Note from the Chairs shares updates on several SUFC and member initiatives, the latest on what’s happening in Congress, information on our Partners Conference events, and an interview with new SUFC member Corazón Latino.


New Member Spotlight: Corazón Latino 

As our Coalition engages with new organizations, we will periodically highlight new members to share background information, detail their thoughts on the value of urban and community forestry, and look at how they anticipate connecting with SUFC and fellow members. This month, we spoke with Felipe Benítez, Executive Director for Corazón Latino

What should we know about Corazón Latino? 

Corazón Latino is a national non-profit organization that seeks to generate social, environmental, and conservation initiatives that foster natural resource stewardship, with a focus on engaging Latinos and diverse communities. We were created a year ago as we saw the need for and interest in creating these kinds of conservation and education programs, and because we saw that there were partners–such as the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), The Nature Conservancy, and American Forests–who were willing to invest in this kind of work. We work at both a national level, with strategic communications tools and media campaigns (such as a Spanish-language promotional toolkit for National Public Lands Day in partnership with USFS and the National Environmental Education Foundation), and at a local level in the Washington, D.C. area, where we focus on linguistically and culturally relevant events (including a civic science event we hosted for families this summer at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens). 

What drew you to SUFC? 

We’re based in D.C. and we see what a difference nature can make for individuals and communities. Most Latinos live in urban areas, so working with groups who understand the importance of urban forestry fits in well with our mission. Tree equity is an important part of what we do–the more trees that are close to where you live and work, the better off you’ll be as a community, a family, and as an individual. 

What do you see as the benefits of SUFC membership? 

Membership in SUFC brings access to a great wealth of knowledge, expertise, and tradition. It also gives us connections to industry leaders and to a wide range of research and data, which helps us better understand the market opportunities for the work we’re doing. Another benefit is the advocacy and government relations capabilities–as a small organization, we don’t have the bandwidth to do much of that work on our own, but we can be part of the conversation through SUFC. And from the other side, we feel that we can sit at the table and provide something of real value–a perspective of diversity and inclusion. SUFC and the organizations we partner with have shown a true commitment to this, rather than just checking a box. This doesn’t happen by decree or overnight–it takes resources and stepping out of your comfort zone–so it’s very encouraging to see that SUFC is ready to invest in that process, because that’s when great things happen.


Workforce Development Initiatives

Our last newsletter highlighted the array of efforts that our members are undertaking to develop and sustain a strong urban forestry workforce. Over the last month, members have continued to connect and seek ways to collaborate. In early September, representatives from American Forests, Student Conservation Association, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, and SUFC convened to share progress and explore opportunities to support and amplify programs. This gathering was part of a broader field scan and listening tour American Forests is conducting to inform its Tree Equity: Career Pathways toolkit. Of note, they have put together a volunteer advisory committee of leading workforce and diversity experts from SUFC, industry, association, academia and nonprofit organizations willing to engage on the difficult questions surrounding barriers that underrepresented groups encounter in entering the tree industry. Contact Ian Leahy, ileahy@americanforests.org, if you’d like to get involved or learn more.  


Diversity and Inclusion Effort Moves Forward

As we reported in our last newsletter, SUFC is taking steps to transition long-standing conversations on diversity and inclusion in urban and community forestry into an actionable plan. In many ways, these efforts will also dovetail well with our workforce development initiatives. Our Steering Committee is currently reviewing a proposal to develop a plan. If you or your organization are willing to get more involved or would like to learn more, please drop us a line at convener@sufc.org.


Join SUFC at the 2018 Partners Meeting

If you’re attending the 2018 Partners in Community Forestry Conference in Irvine, CA this November 7-8, we hope you’ll join us for one of our SUFC events:

  • Tuesday, 11/6, 6 – 7:30 pm: Meet & Mingle, Hotel Irvine’s Grand Foyer
  • Thursday, 11/8, 7:30 – 8:20 am: Breakfast Briefing, Hotel Irvine’s Salon D & E
  • Thursday, 11/8, 5 – 6 pm: Listening Session: Your National Voices for Urban & Community Forestry, Hotel Irvine’s Salon D & E

Leadership Transition

As Paul Ries’ term as SUFC co-chair draws to a close, the steering committee has formed a nominating committee to name a new co-chair who will work with Gerry Gray. Stay tuned for an announcement in the coming months!


Updated SUFC Materials

Updated SUFC materials are now available! The SUFC fact sheet has been updated with new details on the economic impacts of urban forests and is available here. Our Farm Bill fact sheet, found here, details our five-point platform on the 2018 Farm Bill and lists which members have endorsed that platform. Our membership brochure provides a brief overview of the benefits of SUFC membership for any organizations that may be considering joining us.


Policy Update

Farm Bill and Interior Appropriations Bill

The Farm Bill was not passed before it expired and no extension was added. Therefore, many of the existing conservation programs will not be enrolling new participants. We continue to monitor developments with the hope that the final product is close to the Senate version and will be ready for action after the midterms. Concerns remain about the lack of specific language on urban forests in the Landscape Scale Restoration Program in the Senate version, but we are optimistic that the language will be broad enough to cover urban forests.
Our education and outreach video is available for use online and via social media, and Scott Ward (scott.ward@fifth-estate.com) can be contacted with any customization needs.
On the Interior appropriations side, passage will also wait until after the midterm elections, with a continuing resolution taking the government through December 7. With this in mind, the Policy Working Group will be reconvening soon to start working on its strategy post-election.


Roots and Branches

Toronto’s urban canopy currently covers about 26 percent of the city, with about 10 million trees. The city, led by its mayor, John Tory, aims to increase that coverage to 40 percent. Fast Company recently profiled one innovative solution to increasing tree canopy that could be complete as early as next year: covering the balconies and roofs of a 27-story residential building with 450 trees. 

Sincerely,

Paul Ries and Gerry Gray
SUFC Co-Chairs