Forge Cooperative Working Relationships Among Agencies
Agencies within a single municipal government often have different priorities and different problems to address. But properly presented, urban forestry can be adopted as a piece of the solution to these priorities:
- Departments of Transportation and Public Works are challenged with reducing stormwater runoff. Urban trees are a cost effective way to reduce runoff.
- Housing and Community Development Departments seek strategies to improve quality of life in stressed neighborhoods. Forested open space can foster community cohesion and even reduce crime.
- Public Health wants to reduce incidents of asthma and heat-related illnesses. Urban trees have proven their value as a prescription for improving health.
- Education agencies strive to improve educational outcomes. Exhaustive studies demonstrate that greening school yards leads to better student performance, reduced manifestation of ADHD, and obesity prevention.
- Planning departments are charged with making it possible to accomplish all or most of those goals.
Many communities have achieved strong levels of cooperation among agencies, stressing mutual commitments to address community issues through better management of urban forests, and allocating responsibilities and accountability to all participants. In some cases, compliance with Federal or state rules demands close cooperation. Other communities have fostered a culture of cross-agency planning and action because it creates efficiencies, puts scarce funds to work across departmental boundaries, and prevents spending more money to “repair” problems that would not have occurred if agencies had cooperated from the onset. For example, Charlotte, NC requires that the urban forestry department is included at the beginning of any capital project, and in final project approval.
Another key benefit and driver for cross-agency collaboration, is that it permits different departments to apply funds on major projects from the different Federal programs that support their specific mission. For example, a major neighborhood revitalization project could combine the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention funds to help pay for key elements.