Creating a Framework for Change: Finding and Recruiting Allies
You can’t do it alone. To make yours a tree-rich community, you’ll need to find and recruit allies from among other municipal departments, community leaders and the public itself. 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 stormwater management; others, like health, may not. But introducing urban forestry into stormwater management ultimately depends on making the case that more trees can deliver multiple benefits across a range of issue areas.
Aligning and coordinating different municipal departments is the obstacle most frequently mentioned by experts and in focus groups. It’s not an insoluble problem, but it must be addressed to achieve your goals.
|Agency||Where do they fit in?||What can they do?||How does it advance their mission?|
|Parks||Recreation, Outdoor Experiences||Plan for tree canopy||Multiple, including improved public health|
|Public Works||Stormwater Management||Include trees in GI plans||Reduced flow, pollutant reduction|
|Planning||Zoning, development||Maximize green space, minimize development impact [LID]||More tree canopy creates healthy, vibrant neighborhoods|
|Transportation||Roads, street and sidewalk design||Complete and Green Streets||Vibrant, safe neighborhoods and stormwater management|
|Public Health||Promote healthy places||Assure people in “health hotspots” have access to nature||Improved health outcomes for many chronic conditions|
|Sustainability Office||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 [Council]||Often the hub for future-oriented planning||Convene like-minded officials from member municipalities||Stronger foundation for effective region-wide [and watershed level] action|
|Business Improvement Districts||Commitment to economic growth||Support and invest in green streets and sidewalks||Increased foot traffic, sales.|
|Universities||Campus design||Demonstrate exemplary practices||Draws applicants, faculty and staff. Environment conducive to learning.|
|Hospitals||Community health improvement||Support and sponsor greening neighborhoods||Improved health outcomes, more efficient delivery of care.|
|Chambers of Commerce, Convention Bureaus, Business leaders||Improved business climate||Support greening efforts, including trees and open space||Green cityscapes help draw new companies, increased convention revenues|
|Faith-based organizations||Neighborhood vitalization||Advocate for equitable distribution of green assets||More livable, healthier communities for all.|
|Tree organizations||Trees||Allies and source of volunteer stewards||Tree canopy.|
|Conservation groups||Growing interest in urban environments||Allies, source of technical support, funding||Establishes commitment to healthy environments where people live.|
|Neighborhood and Citizens Organizations||They live there.||Constituents and potential citizen stewards.||Equitable distribution of important benefits from trees.|
Aligning Municipal Departments
- Start small. 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, and sustainability. Enlist them in an ad hoc effort to reach out to other departments.
- Consult your regional planning organization. Many have already convened working groups on urban forestry, water quality, and/or environmental health. Their staff can direct you to potential allies in other communities – and even your own.
- Call your state urban forestry coordinator, in the state’s department of forestry. Each maintains contact with both public, non-profit, and other organizations interested in urban forestry. Their network may provide a foundation for your own.
Assuring equity in access to nature across all neighborhoods is a tough challenge. Studies by the International City/County Management Association suggest that only one in ten communities with sustainability plans have addressed equity issues.
The only way to address equity issues is with people, not for people. Reaching out to faith-based groups and including them in the process will not only energize support and mobilize citizen stewards. It can help assure that the benefits you and they envision from urban forestry reach every resident, every neighborhood.