Begin with a coalition of the willing
Successful programs weave together the different needs, opportunities, perspectives and preferences of many different stakeholders. Some may be deeply embedded in the community; others may feel apart from it. But your first task is to bring them together so they can start talking. Start with a core group of natural allies, then expand outward.
Find a champion … or champions
Everybody hopes the trees they plant will stick around. But what about the resources to insure your plan is implemented fully, and that regular maintenance tasks continue even decades out.
Continued, aggressive support from public, private, and non-profit leadership can ensure that the process continues and succeeds. High-profile champions can mobilize and energize public constituencies to campaign for urban forests. Champions can be public officials (see Pittsburgh) or high-profile business and community leaders.
You’ll need an anchor institution
You’ll no doubt begin with a loose, informal group of agency staff and advocates. But as the journey toward sustainable urban forestry unfolds, you’ll need a stronger framework. Most successful programs coalesce around an anchor institution – a trusted, convening organization [often a regional planning organization] which can keep communications going among the partners, monitor progress, track milestones, and drive change when it needs to happen. Here’s a guide, published by funders themselves, on the role and value of anchor institutions.
An effective anchor institution requires three things: trust from the community, funds and staff to do the job, and longevity. Some examples:
- New York Restoration Project
- Casey Trees
- Amigos de Los Rios
- Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
- Trees Louisville
- Savannah Tree Foundation
- The Greening of Detroit
- Golden Triangle BID
First, look inside.
Begin by reaching out to agency staff and identifying allies and potential champions in your community. Some agencies and NGOs, like parks, transportation departments and their constituents, may have an obvious role in promoting urban forestry; others, like health, may not but should. Seattle brought together multiple agencies to complete the VCL Goal Setting and Assessment Tool as a first step in development of its new urban forest management plan.
Identify those few offices within your community most likely to have broad understanding of land use and/or water quality issues: planning, parks, forestry, environment, sustainability to name four. Enlist them in an ad hoc effort to reach out to other departments.
|Where do they fit in?
|What can they do?
|What they get out of it!
|Recreation, Outdoor Experiences
|Plan for tree canopy
|Many benefits, including improved public health
|Include trees in GI Plans
|Reduced flow, pollutant reduction
|Maximize green space, minimize development impact [LID]
|More tree canopy creates healthy, vibrant neighborhoods
|Roads, street and sidewalk design
|Complete and Green Streets
|Vibrant, safe neighborhoods and stormwater management
|Promote healthy places
|Assure people in “health hotspots” have access to nature
|Improved health outcomes for many chronic conditions
|Climate adaptation and mitigation
|Commit to trees as solution to problems [e.g. urban heat island, energy use]
|Greener, healthier, more resilient communities
|Regional Planning Organization
|Often the hub for future-oriented planning
|Convene like-minded officials from member municipalities
|Stronger foundation for effective region-wide [and watershed level] action
Make the public your partner.
To achieve green infrastructure and tree canopy goals, you must influence what residents, businesses and institutions do on their own property. Just as important, no municipal initiative – even if implemented solely on public lands – can endure without strong and broad community support. The funds simply won’t be there.
|Where they fit?
|What can they do?
|What they get out of it?
|Local business groups
|Commitment to economic growth
|Support and invest in green streets and sidewalks
|Increased foot traffic, sales
|Demonstrate exemplary practices
|Attracts applicants and top faculty, creates environment conducive to learning
|Community health improvement
|Support and sponsor efforts to "green" neighborhoods
|Improved health outcomes, more efficient delivery of care
|Chambers of Commerce, Convention Bureas
|Improved business climate
|Support adding green space and trees to business, entertainment and cultural sites
|Draws new corporate investment, increased convention renue
|Advocate for equitable distribution of green assets
|More livable, healthier communities for all.
|Allies and sources of volunteer stewards
|Increased tree canopy
|Growing interest in the environment where people live
|Allies, sources of technical support, funding
|Improved urban environments
|Neighborhood, homeowners and citizens groups
|Constituents and potential citizen stewards
|Fair share of important benefits from trees
This list doesn’t cover everybody, but the more people who believe their views do matter – to them and to you – your plan and policies will be stronger, easier to fund, implement and sustain.
Where to look.
Non-profit tree planting groups are a good place to start. They already exist in many communities. If you’re not familiar with the organizations in your locale, check out the Alliance for Community Trees, which represents more than 165 groups nationwide. Also, contact the urban forestry coordinator in your state forestry agency. They’ll connect you to local groups in your community and can suggest resources to support your initiative.
Likewise, consider undertaking a STEW-MAP assessment of the organizations — small and large, public or private — working on conservation and environmental issues in your community. Get a sense of what you can learn by taking a look at the STEW-MAP report for New York City.
Bring all interests together.
Most states have urban forestry councils. But few have the broad authorities vested in DC’s new Urban Forestry Advisory Council. Comprising public agencies, utilities and non-profit organizations, it advises on, and monitors the city’s tree-related policies and programs. Among the most effective non-profit tree groups in the nation’s capital? Casey Trees.