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.

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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.

AgencyWhere do they fit in?What can they do?How does it advance their mission?   
ParksRecreation, Outdoor Experiences
Plan for tree canopyMultiple, including improved public health
Public WorksStormwater Management
Include trees in GI plansReduced flow, pollutant reduction
PlanningZoning, developmentMaximize green space, minimize development impact [LID]
More tree canopy creates healthy, vibrant neighborhoods
TransportationRoads, street and sidewalk designComplete and Green StreetsVibrant, safe neighborhoods and stormwater management
Public HealthPromote healthy placesAssure people in “health hotspots” have access to nature
Improved health outcomes for many chronic conditions
Sustainability OfficeClimate adaptation and mitigationCommit 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 planningConvene like-minded officials from member municipalities
Stronger foundation for effective region-wide [and watershed level] action
Business Improvement Districts
Commitment to economic growthSupport and invest in green streets and sidewalksIncreased foot traffic, sales.
UniversitiesCampus designDemonstrate exemplary practicesDraws applicants, faculty and staff. Environment conducive to learning.
HospitalsCommunity health improvementSupport and sponsor greening neighborhoodsImproved health outcomes, more efficient delivery of care.
Chambers of Commerce, Convention Bureaus, Business leaders
Improved business climateSupport greening efforts, including trees and open spaceGreen cityscapes help draw new companies, increased convention revenues
Faith-based organizationsNeighborhood vitalizationAdvocate for equitable distribution of green assets
More livable, healthier communities for all.
Tree organizationsTreesAllies and source of volunteer stewards
Tree canopy.
Conservation groupsGrowing interest in urban environments
Allies, source of technical support, fundingEstablishes commitment to healthy environments where people live.
Neighborhood and Citizens OrganizationsThey 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.
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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.

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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.