How Important are Trees to Your City Government?
Playing a Supporting Role for Trees
Learn how to be a tree advocate in your community
By Shannon Ramsay, President and CEO Trees Forever
How important are trees to your city government? I hope the answer is “very.” But if not, with time and effort, trees and the community forest can be viewed by local government as a valuable community asset. As a concerned citizen, you can work with others to educate government officials on the many benefits trees bring to your town or city.
Getting government folks directly involved is important and many are already active. Of the 400 communities that have participated in Trees Forever utility-sponsored programs, 185 have a city council member, city employee, mayor or tree board member serving on its volunteer organization’s board or steering committee. Of those 185 communities, approximately 45 percent have a city council member serving. Statewide, there are many mayors actively serving with local volunteer tree organizations. Many of our larger cities have supportive and involved mayors, city foresters and/or parks and recreation directors that understand the value of a green and beautiful community.
What you can do:
Address the mayor and city council annually. Present your group’s accomplishments along with educational materials on the values and benefits of trees. Ask your entire steering committee or board to attend the meeting. PowerPoint’s or posters are ideal for these situations. Trees Forever can provide helpful materials for these presentations and you may ask a Trees Forever field coordinator to accompany you.
Ask for support:
Ask the council to establish a line item in the budget for trees, and to match other dollars your organization has raised for trees or to increase the current budget for maintenance and tree planting (if needed).
Seek peer support:
Let your mayor and council members know of other supportive city governments around Iowa. Provide specifics. Attending your Trees City U.S.A awards banquet annually is an ideal way to convey what other Iowa communities are doing.
Take the time to talk individually with your mayor and council members about trees. If a controversy develops about a “Tree problem,” he or she will see you or your local organization as a valuable asset if you’ve taken the time to explain the benefits of your efforts.
Never become apathetic:
Mayors and council members are elected. Never assume things will not change. This is why broad community support is most important. Why not support a tree supporter for the next council election?
Send “thank yous.”
If your council and mayor have been supportive, be certain to thank them formally, in writing or at a council meeting or public event.
Send out invitations to events:
Ask the mayor and council members to Arbor Day, Earth Day or special promotional planting events. These provide excellent opportunities for involving government officials. Remember to invite the local newspaper to take photos and conduct interviews.
Find a champion. The mayor, council members or other government representatives can become the champions of trees in your community.
Apply for Tree City U. S. A. Once this is achieved, strongly encourage your mayor to attend the annual awards banquet with other from your community.