APWA is working in Washington to provide the most up-to-date forestry information to members

Megan Zadecky
Former Program Manager
APWA Washington Office

With the growing recognition of the value of the green infrastructure there is a significant effort among urban forestry professionals to implement effective tree care programs in the communities they serve. In many communities this responsibility falls under the purview of the public works department where public works professionals are tasked with managing the urban forest. Through duties such as tree planting to grounds maintenance, APWA's members are responsible for "greening" communities and making them more livable. In an effort to provide the public works community with the latest information and the tools that they need to manage the green spaces in their communities, APWA is engaging in forestry at the national level. Two projects of particular interest are the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition, of which APWA is a member, and the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council grant awarded to APWA this past summer. This month's "Washington Insight" article provides an update on these two exciting projects, as well as more information about the resources that these projects provide to APWA members.

Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition: Annual Meeting and Coalition Priorities
The Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) is a national coalition to advance a unified urban forest agenda for our nation's communities. Much more than city trees, urban forests include the aggregate of all community vegetation and green spaces in neighborhoods of large and small cities across the country and that provide benefits essential to enriching community quality of life. A well-managed urban forest provides high-value economic, environmental and social benefits while simultaneously reducing infrastructure costs improving air and water quality of the urban environment; reducing energy use and costs and reducing the production of greenhouse gases; and providing human health benefits.

The SUFC held its annual meeting here in Washington, D.C. recently to discuss the coalition's activities for the past year and to develop a set of priorities and goals for the coming year. Over the three days of meetings, coalition members participated in a day-and-a-half business meeting where a national agenda for natural resources stewardship was discussed and advocacy priorities and supporting documentation were presented and approved; heard from representatives from the Urban and Community Forestry Program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and worked to refine the coalition's message and internal infrastructure. The advocacy strategy for the upcoming year calls for the SUFC advocating $50 million for the Urban and Community Forestry Program: $36 million for State Cooperative Assistance; $2 million for dedicated Technology Transfer and Education; and $12 million for Metropolitan Areas Canopy Restoration initiative and an additional $6 million for urban forest research projects.

Also of interest are the two primary SUFC work plan elements for 2007. One element will be to support the USDA Forest Service Office of Urban and Community Forestry (UCF). Activities for this support will include advocating for continued funding for the Forest Service UCF office, sharing metrics and developing a case that supplements Forest Service information to justify urban expenditures and federal role in urban natural resources and helping develop the new model for Forest Service State and Private Forestry Office. The following subgroups the aforementioned activities: advocacy task group, performance metrics task group, and the state and private forestry redesign.

The second work plan element that is of interest is the SUFC's plan to refine its core message about urban forestry. Several coalition members, including APWA, formed a message task group committee to focus on communication activities over the next year. The communication strategy will aim to refine the SUFC agenda so that it defines how to deliver the message and to whom. The Message Task Group will use the existing SUFC Communications and Outreach grant from the Forest Service to hold a facilitated meeting on communications and message development/refinement.

APWA's forestry grant aimed at improving communications between public works professionals and urban foresters
The grant awarded to APWA from the U.S. Forest Service is being used to develop a series of best management practices on effective urban forestry management. Teaming up with the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) and Davey Resource Group, APWA developed this project to strengthen communications between urban foresters and public works professionals by creating a series of reports and conducting an education campaign on urban forestry management. Research shows the vast majority of urban forestry programming is from the perspectives of practitioners and advocates. There are few, if any, existing products or prior outreach efforts that have specifically targeted the public works community. This project will change this by creating information from the public works perspective and using terminology that is familiar to the profession.

The project kicked off in August 2006 with the appointment of six people to serve on the advisory committee, a group charged with guiding the project and providing expertise in public works and urban forestry management. The following individuals from APWA and SMA serve on the committee: Rachel Buice Barker, Deputy Director of Public Services/Operations, City of Columbus, GA; George Gonzalez, Chief Forester, Bureau of Street Services, City of Los Angeles, CA; Andy Hillman, City Forester, City of Ithaca, NY; Gene Hyde, City Forester, City of Chattanooga, TN; Walter Veselka, Public Works Director, City of Bristol, CT; and Peter Woodcock, Retired Public Works Director and member of the APWA NY Metro Chapter.

The first phase of the project, a comprehensive literature review on the key components of effective urban forestry programs, is complete. The committee is now defining what they believe are the key components of municipal forestry programs. These components will be used to identify the model forestry programs that will be incorporated into a series of reports on effective urban forestry management for public works professionals. These guides will highlight best practices in hiring and recruitment, budgeting/funding, policies, procedures, ordinances and regulations and tree inventory systems.

In August 2007, APWA will begin an education and outreach campaign informing public works officials about best practices in forestry management. Stay tuned for a Click, Listen & Learn program, regional onsite education sessions and a CD-ROM toolkit. The APWA website, www.apwa.net, will provide more details about these programs as they develop.