Legislative Advocacy

capitolCalifornia ReLeaf, its Network Members, and its statewide coalition partners have significantly raised the visibility and awareness of urban forestry in Sacramento over the past several years. Together, we have augmented the Urban Forestry Act of 1978 with  language and objectives that bring this landmark legislation into the 21st Century. We have helped create new programs that support active transportation, and protected old ones that provide funding for environmental mitigation. We have helped preserve the rights of all Californians to volunteer their time and spirit to each and every one of our tree care and tree planting projects. And we have led the charge in securing sufficient funding for these projects through bonds and new revenue sources. 

Our commitment to be the voice of urban forestry in California’s capitol continues, and can only get stronger with the support of our local and statewide partners.

The following is a synopsis of our current advocacy efforts, and a review of past successes.

2016 Advocacy Highlights

2016-17 State Budget

Governor Brown signed a Fiscal Year 2016/17 State Budget in late June that includes $320 million for the Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, $6.7 million for EEMP from the State Highway Account, $120 million for the Active Transportation Program, and $9.3 million from Proposition 1 for a new Urban Rivers Program.

On September 14th, Governor Brown signed a supplemental State Budget package that included a $900 million Cap-and-Trade Expenditure Plan. The 2016/17 Plan includes $15 million for CAL FIRE’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, $80 million for a new Urban Greening Program at the California Natural Resources Agency, $10 million for the state’s Active Transportation Program and $140 million for a new Transformative Climate Communities Program at the Strategic Growth Council. In total, the two budget bills include over $700 million for new and existing grant programs that can connect trees and green infrastructure to sustainable communities, active transportation, environmental mitigation and more.

New Funding Programs

Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 859 and Assembly Bill 2722 (Burke) on September 14th which creates several new programs that will utilize Cap-and Trade funding allocated in this fiscal year.  SB 859  contains the enabling statutory language for the new Urban Greening Program. Urban forests and related green infrastructure projects are a focal point, with multi-benefit projects cited as a critical element as well. Nonprofits are directly eligible to apply, and 75% of the funds will go to projects in critically underserved communities (which is a mixture of low-income, park poor and CalEnviroScreen areas). AB 2722 states the “program shall fund the development and implementation of neighborhood-level transformative climate community plans that include multiple, coordinated greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects that provide local economic, environmental, and health benefits to disadvantaged communities.”  Since previous iterations  of the bill explicitly highlighted green infrastructure and urban forestry as eligible projects under the program, California ReLeaf believes this will be yet another resource for these purposes. See the enabling statutory language for the Urban Greening Program here.

AB 32 Extension

Over 300 businesses, local governments and nonprofits banded together to help pass Senate Bill 32 (Pavley) in August which extends California’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Though the bill does not extend the Cap-and-Trade Program, it does send a clear market signal that California is determined to continue the spirit and implementation of AB 32 into the next 14 years and beyond. Governor Brown signed the bill in September. See some of the support materials for SB 32 here and here.

SB 535 Revisited

Environmental justice advocates supported by nearly 90 nonprofits and other stakeholders spearheaded successful efforts to pass Assembly Bill 1550 (Gomez) which was signed by the Governor in September.  AB 1550 revises the investment markers created by SB 535 in 2012 to ensure 25% of all Cap-and-Trade dollars are for projects located in and benefitting DACs, with another 10% for projects providing benefit to low income communities and households as defined. See support material for AB 1550 here.

National Resources Triumph

Senate Bill 1386 (Wolk) was sponsored by Defenders of Wildlife and makes it a matter of state policy that the protection and management of natural and working lands is an important strategy in meeting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, and will require all state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions to consider this policy when revising, adopting, or establishing policies, regulations, expenditures, or grant criteria relating to the protection and management of natural and working lands. The bill defines natural lands as “lands consisting of forests, grasslands, deserts, freshwater and riparian systems, wetlands, coastal and estuarine areas, watersheds, wildlands, or wildlife habitat, or lands used for recreational purposes such as parks, urban and community forests, trails, greenbelts, and other similar open-space land.” See the support letter for SB 1386 here.

Supporting Urban Forestry’s heartbeat at the Federal Level

The last two Federal spending plans proposed by the Obama Administration have seen significant suggested reductions to the USFS Urban and Community Forestry Program. California ReLeaf has joined with multiple organizations across the nation in supporting testimony developed by the Sustainable Urban Forest Coalition that recommends an investment of $31.3 million in the Program for Fiscal Year 2017. See the testimony here.

Administrative Actions on Urban Forestry

The Brown Administration has released two key concept papers in 2016 that could help determine the viability of sustainable urban forestry support at the State level. The Discussion Paper of the 2030 Target Scoping Plan Update and California Forest Carbon Plan Concept Paper both offer goals and strategies to support urban forestry in the long-term by setting 5% canopy increase targets over the next 14 years, and focusing on protecting our existing green infrastructure too.

Past Advocacy Highlights

Preserving the Right to Volunteer

Assembly Member Rich Gordon (D – Menlo Park) carried AB 327 in 2015 that creates a seven-year extension on the 2017 sunset provision from the previous Gordon measure passed in 2011 (AB 587). California ReLeaf and 40 Network Members joined with another 140 state, local and regional organizations to support this effort and get it signed into law. The new sunset date in 2024.

2015-16 State Budget

Governor Brown signed a State Budget for Fiscal Year 2015/16 that includes over $600 million for new and existing grant program that can connect trees and urban greening to sustainable communities, recreation, environmental mitigation and more. Highlights include $400 million for the Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, $101 million for stormwater management through Proposition 1, $120 million for the Active Transportation Program, $7.6 million for the River Parkways Program, and $6.7 million for EEMP.

2014-15 State Budget

The 2014-15 State Budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown marked a new course for urban forestry funding and increased opportunity to connect it to multiple statewide priorities. The budget contained a record $17.8 million for CAL FIRE’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, $11 million for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program,  $130 million for the Active Transportation Program, $355 million to schools and community colleges for Proposition 39 implementation, $9 million for Urban Streams, and $130 million for a new Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program. Urban forestry is either a primary component or eligible expense within all of these programs, thereby making over $650 million available through at least six different programs for tree planting, tree care, and related activities.

Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program (EEMP) and Active Transportation Program (ATP)

California ReLeaf lead a coalition of conservation partners in 2013 that successfully preserved the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program while simultaneously working with a broader coalition of stakeholders to create a new Active Transportation Program (ATP).

The EEMP is now run through the Natural Resources Agency and focuses primarily on funding resource lands and urban forestry, receiving $6.7 million annually for local grants assistance. The “parks and trails” component of the EEMP was moved to the ATP, which is administered by the Department of Transportation and seeks to encourage active transportation through a variety of eligible projects that include safe routes to schools and bicycle trails. The ATP receives approximately $130 million each year, making it the largest program of its kind in the U.S.

Cap-and-Trade Legislation

Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez (D – Los Angeles) authored AB 1532 in 2012 to set up a broad framework for how cap-and- trade revenues should be allocated in the future, and a role for disadvantaged communities within this context. The chaptered bill includes language specifying natural resources and forestry as eligible investments, and specifies roles for nonprofits within the larger program. Senate President Kevin de León (D – Los Angeles) authored SB 535 this same year, which specified that at least 25% of all cap-and-trade funds would be spent on projects that provide benefit to disadvantaged communities. California ReLeaf worked on these measures, and was proud to support the final versions of both bills.


Helpful links

Search for Bills: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xhtml

Search for legislation past and present that went before the California State Legislature.


Legislator Information: http://senate.ca.gov/senators and http://assembly.ca.gov/assemblymembers

Links to biographies, home pages, and committee assignments for all California State Senators and Assembly Members.


California Law By Code Section: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml

Direct access to the State of California’s Official Database of Current California Law.


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