The pump is psychologically and financially primed for a new era of urban renewal based on public plantings.

In his effort to make the United States a leader in global climate change and create more livable communities, President Barack Obama wants to re-evaluate transportation funding policies to ensure they take “smart growth” considerations into account. Such a change would offset and, hopefully, reverse the tendency to accommodate urban sprawl by relegating trees and other plants to ever-smaller spaces, such as lots and boulevards.

Initiatives under way by the U.S. Green Building Council will reinforce such policy changes.

The council's revised LEED program, due in 2011, will include landscape criteria based on rating2 metrics developed by the Sustainable Site Initiative, a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. Almost 40 hydrology, vegetation, soils, materials, and human health experts contributed to Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks, which will be released this summer.

In the meantime, the 2008 Farm Bill contains two new funding sources.

Up to $5 million is available to buy equipment to monitor, remove, dispose of, and replace disease- and invasive species-infested trees. Available only to jurisdictions in quarantined areas, Congress hadn't appropriated a specific amount for the Pest and Disease Revolving Loan Fund as of press time.

The Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program provides matching grants to buy private forestland threatened by conversion to nonforest uses. Properties must be accessible to the public and provide economic, environmental, recreational, or educational benefits.

Even with the promise of new funding and presidential support, times remain tight, budgets are shrinking, and urban forestry programs may be among the first to be scrutinized for potential savings.

To show policy-makers how important these programs are to sustainability efforts, the Society of Municipal Arborists suggests managers assess and prioritize potential budget cut implications and make recommendations that shift capital and operating resources accordingly. Have a plan prepared for essential activities based on revenue-neutral or ordinance-driven programs.

Deploying software to manage and quantify the value of green assets also helps justify programs. The i-Tree software suite, for example, offered for free at www.itreetools.org, analyzes urban ecosystem and street tree inventories, and calculates the monetary value of environmental and aesthetic benefits. If your community is part of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (www.usmayors.org/climateprotection), such software can be used to help meet goals.