Written Testimony of the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition to the House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
March 15, 2019
The Honorable Betty McCollum
House Committee on Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
The Honorable David Joyce
House Committee on Appropriations Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
Dear Chairman McCollum, Ranking Member Joyce, and Honorable Committee Members:
The Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) is comprised of more than 35 national organizations and corporations representing hundreds of thousands of professionals—and millions of supporters—who care for and support sustainable trees and green infrastructure in our nation’s communities. We thank you for the FY 2019 funding levels, especially the increased funding for the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program. Collectively, we urge support for several programs across various agencies under the Interior Subcommittee’s jurisdiction that support urban and community forests and green infrastructure.
Our nation’s urban and community forests impact over 190 million Americans and 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, improve human health have directly or indirectly reduced costs in communities by millions of dollars. The collective value and benefits of community trees equals over $10 billion nationwide. With a projected 394 million Americans living in urbanized areas by 2050, investing in trees and better ways to grow trees to create livable communities needs to happen now.
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 the trees in their communities. 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 2018, U&CF assisted 7,951 urban and rural communities and nearly 206 million people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. 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 significantly more) by states and partner organizations. There are 9,121 communities that have adopted and can present documentation of local/statewide ordinances or policies that focus on community trees. In FY 2017, 33% of the communities served were rural. U&CF engages citizens 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.
SUFC is deeply concerned by past proposals to defund the U&CF program. Zeroing out this important program would completely erode the capacity that has been developed in cities and towns of all sizes and jeopardize many local public and private partnerships and collaborative projects where federal assistance is essential. SUFC recommends the Urban and Community Forestry Program be funded at $35 million in FY 2020.
- Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR)
National priority Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) projects are a key way 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. As a result, LSR contributes to achieving results across the landscape and making meaningful local, regional, and national impacts. SUFC recommends funding the Landscape Scale Restoration program at $20 million in FY 2020.
- Community Forests and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP)
CFP has made substantial progress in preserving forests by increasing opportunities for Americans to connect with forests in their own communities and fostering new public–private partnerships. Since its first grant round in FY 2012, CFP has supported 51 community forest projects across 21 states and territories and leveraged more than twice the federal investment. Thanks to these partnerships, more than 12,300 acres of private forestlands—much of it in rural areas—have been, or soon will be, acquired to create new—or expand existing—community forests. SUFC recommends an increase in funds to $5 million in FY 2020.
- Forest Health Management
Forests across the country are threatened by increasing numbers of insects and disease pathogens introduced from abroad and entering this country through urban ports. As a result, municipal governments across the U.S. are spending an estimated $2.4 billion each year to remove trees on city property killed by non-native pests. Homeowners are spending an additional $1 billion to remove and replace trees on their properties and are absorbing an additional $1.5 billion in reduced property values. The pests often spread from the cities to rural and wildland forests, where the full spectrum of forest values is at risk. This program provides essential expertise and assistance to state and municipal agencies and private landowners working to prevent these pests’ spread and minimize the damage they cause. We recommend $48 million for cooperative lands programs under the Forest Health Management program in FY 2020.
USDA Forest Service: Forest and Rangeland Research
SUFC urges the Subcommittee to provide $315 million for the overall R&D program for FY 2020.
- Urban and Community Forestry Research
The Forest Service Research and Development (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. We urge the Subcommittee 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
Among the major research challenges facing R&D is the destruction of our nation’s urban forests caused by non-native insects and diseases. People who value urban forests join supporters of rural and wildland forests in depending on USDA Forest Service R&D to develop better tools for pest detection and protective strategies, including chemical and biological controls and breeding of trees resistant to pests. The most recent data available to us indicate that USDA Forest Service research stations allocate only about $3 million for research on non-native insects and diseases— less than 1% of its total budget. In the absence of a budget line item for invasive species research, we urge the Subcommittee to include language in its 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. We ask the Subcommittee 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 of our nation’s forests, including our current and expanding 138 million acres of urban forest land.
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. SUFC is 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. SUFC supports robust funding for CWSRF, along with efforts to expand the use of green infrastructure to 20% to meet Clean Water Act goals.
The National Park Service
- Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLPP)
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. SUFC requests robust funding for the state and local assistance program, which includes $20 million for ORLPP in FY 2020
Supporting SUFC Members:
Alliance for Community Trees
American Planning Association (APA)
American Society of Consulting Arborists
American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)
Arbor Day Foundation (ADF)
Bartlett Tree Foundation
Center for Invasive Species Prevention
Green Infrastructure Center
International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)
Keep America Beautiful (KAB)
National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)
National Association of Counties (NACo)
National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD)
National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)
National Association of State Foresters (NASF)
National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)
Professional Grounds Maintenance Society
The Davey Foundation
The Nature Conservancy
Society of American Foresters (SAF)
Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA)
Student Conservation Association (SCA)
Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA)
TREE Fund Trees Forever
The Trust for Public Land
Water Environment Federation (WEF)
Wildlife Habitat Council