Politics and policy processes in federal urban forest policy formation and change
This study examined the politics and policy processes that led to the formation and change of federal urban forest policy in the United States. Using the Three Streams Framework and Punctuated Equilibrium Model of policy processes for the analysis, findings suggest that federal urban forest policy began as a “top-down” policy process originating from presidential attention to New Conservation issues. In the 1960s a “wave of enthusiasm” formed for government solutions to environmental problems. Policy entrepreneurs in the federal bureaucracy recognized this opportunity and acted to use it for organizational advantage.
Federal urban forest policy forms due to bureaucratic response to presidential attention and policy changes due to the United States Forest Service quest for legislator attention, new resources, and to cultivate an urban constituency. The agency accomplished this in cooperation with two principal and historically allied forestry interest groups, the American Forestry Association and state foresters. A key element was the rise of skillful policy entrepreneurs advancing policy. Political advocates were also present in Congress. Important too was that several urban forestry policy entrepreneurs cross back and forth between these groups. Another key element was not so much the absence of organized opposition, but the control of it. Opposition to federal urban forest policy existed among members of the policy monopoly due to distribution politics. However, opposition ceased when federal cooperative forestry law changed in 1978 permitting distribution of federal urban forestry funds to and by state foresters.
Policy stabilizes due to the formation of a policy monopoly resulting from an advocacy coalition who controlled membership. Policy becomes unstable due to the introduction of new, competing actors into the policy monopoly and due to issue ambiguity affecting the urban forest policy image. By 1989 presidential attention to the causal story of urban reforestation (tree planting) emerges again as it did in the 1960s. This causes the coupling of the three policy process streams resulting in a punctuated moment in federal urban forest policy. This results in increased political attention and the acquisition of scarce resources for the Forest Service and distribution of funds to partners in the advocacy coalition.
Keywords: Advocacy coalition; American governance; cooperative forestry; distributive politics; Forest Service; interorganizational relationships; policy entrepreneurs; policy monopoly; policy stability; political advocates; political behavior; urban forest history; urban forest policy.
0617: Public administration