Setting the Stage for 2015

by Chuck Mills


Now that CAL FIRE has received over $17 million in cap-and-trade auction proceeds to support the Urban and Community Forestry, we must all take to celebrate… for about four months.


This single victory represents a huge win for all of us, but the next battle at the State Capitol could be for the jackpot – an all-in opportunity to secure long-term funding for urban forestry.


Supplemental state budget language (commonly referred to as a trailer bill) that will be signed By Governor Brown in the coming days sets up a long-term funding strategy that is designed to close the conversation on how cap-and-trade auction proceeds will fund high-speed rail, affordable housing, transit operations, agriculture, and active transportation. These are all to be funded at specified levels in perpetuity, or until cap-and-trade auction proceeds stop.


The second part of this package lists ten specific issue areas that will be funded on annual basis through the normal budget process. These items include urban forestry, along with parks, forest health, low-carbon transportation and wetlands to name a few. Combined, these ten items will split 40% of all cap-and-trade revenues in perpetuity. However, there are variables already in play that could make 2015 a “make or break” year in this area.


For example, key legislative leaders want to create a cap-and-trade program that permanently directs all funding for specified purposes. Other interests in the natural resources sector want to see wetlands, urban forestry and forest health funded through regional conservancies rather than CAL FIRE and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. And every interest that didn’t make this elite list will be angling to get on it next year, if not earlier.


So the stage is set for California ReLeaf, our Network, and its coalition partners in Sacramento. If the annual appropriations model holds, we must ensure that CAL FIRE continues to be the lead for urban forestry, and that the 2014-15 allocation is regarded as the floor – not the ceiling – for future year’s funding.


If a long-term strategy is set in motion, we’ll need to not only make sure that CAL FIRE remains the lead for urban forestry, but also ensure we receive no less than 2% of all cap-and-trade auction proceeds in perpetuity. This would amount to anywhere from $15 million to $50 million each year, depending on annual proceeds generated by auctions.


So celebrate now, but don’t forget there is another contest ahead of us. And the prize could be unprecedented funding for urban forestry for at least five years.


Chuck Mills is the Grants Manager for California ReLeaf.



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