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An Urgent Letter From The Executive Director

Casey Sclar, Executive Director of the American Public Gardens Association

Greetings Valued Members,

I’m reaching out to you today with an atypical request. Usually, our organization strives to be an unbiased resource for you to be the leaders, advocates, and innovators you are. But today we have a specific opinion, and we urge you to act and make your voice heard on the subject.

The President’s proposed budget will yield obvious impacts (both positive and negative) if even a portion of it is adopted. While the billions of dollars in proposed changes in funding to the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Interior, the EPA, and other agencies are vast and far-reaching, they have also received a vast amount of press coverage and calls to action from many different stakeholders.

However, many of our organizations are considered “living museums.”As places of art and culture, perhaps the greatest negative budgetary impact felt by our Association members would be the proposed de-funding of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and especially, defunding of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

In FY2015-2016 alone, the IMLS awarded twenty-five Museums for America, three Museums For America - Learning Experiences, one MFA-Community Anchor, and two National Leadership Grants for Museums to public gardens - totaling $3.8 million. That’s over 30 gardens benefiting from this organization. Funds from IMLS impact gardens both large and small. Gardens just like yours:

  • Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden will create a sustainable environmental education program.
     
  • New England Wild Flower Society proposed to create a regional network of pollinator gardens.
     
  • Desert Botanical Garden partners with Cultivate South Phoenix and Phoenix area schools to develop a food hub and a center for education and arts programming.
     
  • Montgomery Botanical Center, along with eight partner gardens, can study and develop methods for effective conservation of U.S. living plants, to conserve biodiversity and coordinate management among isolated collections – and this is just a few examples of how our industry benefits.

IMLS often goes unrecognized for its profound impact on our community. Hundreds of gardens have previously received funds that, although small in size, brought woefully needed assistance and launched them to greater levels of success. In fact, about two-thirds (67%) of IMLS grant recipients cited an increased ability to attract outside funding, and 80% of respondents to a recent survey felt that whether or not their project was funded, they had an increased public image and ability to apply for funding elsewhere.

The IMLS budget dedicated to funding museums (including gardens and arboreta) is only $30.24 million for FY17. This is only 10-11% of the total amount requested to fund and administer all of IMLS, minuscule in comparison to the budget cuts proposed in other departments.

And so, I ask you, fellow garden leaders, to join me and let your voice be heard. 

logo buttonIf you can spare only five minutes, go here to tell your elected officials how you feel, and to sign on to the Office of Museum Services Appropriations Letter. 

If you have fifteen minutes, take a quick look at the President’s proposed budget to choose what other areas you wish to act upon and contact your elected representative with your thoughts on how they should best represent you and your organization’s interests.

logo buttonIf you have an hour or more, consider scheduling a meeting with your elected officials and tell them about the unique and indispensable role that horticulture and your garden plays in the community. Show them this brand new one-page resource from the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) that is packed full of impact data and references. Take your garden's own snapshot report from our Benchmarking Platform to make the case regarding your garden's financial, employment, conservation, and educational impacts, in addition to the essential information of how plants and landscapes stewarded by your organization provide places for the public to simply gather, escape, and heal.

Lastly, our sister association, the American Alliance of Museums, has some excellent tools they’ve developed regarding advocacy. They’re remarkably comprehensive and free for you to use. 

Any time or resources you can spare benefits all of us. Join us, and the many regional cultural arts organizations, sister associations (especially the American Alliance of Museums), and the many patrons of the arts in expressing displeasure at the proposed defunding of IMLS.

On behalf of myself and the entire team here at the Association, I thank you and appreciate you for whatever you're able to give to this honorable cause.

 

Sincerely,

 

D. Casey Sclar, Ph.D.
Executive Director
American Public Gardens Association

 

Visit the Advocacy page on our website to learn more about key issues and other ways to get involved.