By Chuck Mills
On June 15, 2014, the Legislature passed a state budget bill that includes $17.8 million for CAL FIRE’s Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) Program. Governor Brown is expected to sign this deal.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest single-state annual appropriation for urban forestry in US History.
More details will follow, but this much is certain:
- $15.7 million for projects and grants through the U&CF Program, with $2.1 million to support staffing and administration.
- Per the statutory requirements of Senate Bill 535, the majority of these funds will benefit disadvantaged communities.
- Since the funds come from cap-and-trade auction proceeds, projects must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goals of AB 32.
This is a major victory for the ReLeaf Network and our multiple coalition partners. Throughout 2013 and 2014, organizations such as Coalition for Clean Air, Housing California, The Nature Conservancy, TransForm, and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network joined with California ReLeaf and our Network in a single succinct message to the Governor and Legislature from which we did not stray: allocate a portion of cap-and-trade funds directly to CAL FIRE for the Urban and Community Forestry Program. Though other agendas existed in the State Capitol that competed with our message, this straightforward, no-nonsense approach prevailed, and has set the stage nicely for future allocations to the Program.
This has been the top public policy priority for California ReLeaf since 2012, so we must acknowledge the leadership of Governor Brown, Senate President Pro Tempore Elect Kevin DeLeón, Assembly Speaker pro Tem Nora Campos, CAL FIRE, CAL EPA, and the California Air Resources Board in making this happen.
Ultimately, our amazing non-profit coalition partners were instrumental in getting us where we are today. Thanks and heartfelt gratitude to all members of the Natural and Working Lands Coalition, 535 Quad, and Sustainable Communities for All Coalition.
Look for additional details on the 2014-15 State Budget soon and make sure to attend the California Urban & Community Forests Conference in San Diego to get a full report from CAL FIRE State Urban Forester John Melvin.
Chuck Mills is California ReLeaf’s Grant Program Manager.