April 4, 2012 Edit
via Nancy C. Somerville, Hon. ASLA
Executive Vice President and CEO
American Society of Landscape Architects
American Society of Landscape Architects
Annual 2011: A Report to Our Members
As we dive into what promises to be another very busy year for ASLA, I wanted to take a moment to review our accomplishments in 2011. Despite a very challenging economy that has affected us all, ASLA members and their Society made real progress in raising awareness of the profession and ensuring that the profession’s voice was heard.
On August 17, 1,000 volunteers hit the streets, the parks, and the sidewalks in their communities to share examples of landscape architecture projects and to explain the benefits your work brings to people’s lives. More than 250 events, half of which involved direct, one-on-one discussions, happened almost simultaneously. Collectively, these events generated more than 80 news stories in all media, reaching an estimated 15 million people.
So who says one person can’t make a difference? There are less than 30,000 people employed in the landscape architecture field in a nation of more than 312 million. Yet we were heard, big time. And we’ve only just begun.
Working hand-in-hand with our chapters and their dedicated public-awareness volunteers, we will continue that engagement with activities at the grassroots level supported by resources created by the national office. And this April chapters across the nation will once again celebrate National Landscape Architecture Month, introducing the profession to the public through a series of standalone events while also coordinating a common public outreach on April 26, Frederick Law Olmsted’s birthday.
On the PR and communications side, much of our energy—and creativity—continues to be focused on web communications, because of the ability of the web to reach the largest audience. In 2011, the site attracted 644,000 unique visitors and more than 5 million pageviews, continuing healthy year-to-year growth.
To complement the public awareness materials, we have developed special areas on the site to serve as resources for policy makers, educators, students, and members of the other design and construction industries.
As part of the 08.17.11 events, we launched www.asla.org/design, a basic introduction to the profession as a destination for the curious public. So far, it has received more than 55,000 pageviews.
Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes features 30 case studies and eight animations that detail sustainable landscape design. These resources have attracted more than 370,000 pageviews thus far, and the animations have been viewed an additional 85,000 times.
To establish landscape architects in the forefront of discussions of key issues affecting the profession, we have developed detailed resource centers around topics such as transportation, green infrastructure, and livable communities, as well as corresponding resources for residential projects.
And we continue to leverage The Dirt blog to keep our voice in the mix. The blog is widely read and syndicated, consistently ranks among the top 10 on environmental subjects, and has received some 1.3 million pageviews since relaunch in 2009
These outreach efforts provide a solid foundation to support our equally significant progress on the advocacy front, in spite of the challenging political environment in Washington.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in the midst of a critical national rulemaking on stormwater. The process started with an EPA-commissioned National Research Council study on the effectiveness of the Agency’s current stormwater program. NRC’s conclusion: Big pipes and grey infrastructure are not going to solve the problem, but green infrastructure and low-impact development can.
To support its rulemaking, EPA asked ASLA to help document the use and effectiveness of green infrastructure approaches. We turned to you, and set an ambitious goal of 300 projects. You responded with 479 case studies, covering 43 states, D.C, and Canada. We provided all that data to EPA, and those case studies are now catalogued and available on the ASLA website. These projects are a compelling demonstration of the value of green infrastructure—and the critical role of landscape architects.
Another priority focus this year has been transportation. With the surface transportation bill coming up for renewal, we are advocating for inclusion of a federal Complete Streets policy in the legislation, along with supporting essential existing programs that support transportation alternatives, enhance community livability, and provide jobs for landscape architects.
Many of these programs came under a barrage of attacks in 2011, especially the transportation enhancements program. An example: On October 17, ASLA’s government affairs staff learned of a serious threat: Senator John McCain was preparing to offer an amendment to a fiscal year 2012 spending bill to gut the transportation enhancements program.
Since McCain did not include bicycle and trail projects on his hit list, many of our usual coalition partners opted not to challenge the proposal. So ASLA took the lead. We prepared a letter in opposition, got 12 other organizations to sign on, and put the letter into the hands of each senator’s chief of staff, legislative director, and transportation legislative assistant. And we sent out a red alert to all of you through our Advocacy Network. You responded. We had the best performance from the Advocacy Network to date, with 655 activists sending 1,338 messages to their senators over the two days preceding the vote.
It worked. The roll-call vote on October 19 was 59 to 39 to table the amendment, essentially killing it.
Your grassroots-level advocacy, combined with our D.C.-based outreach efforts, not only reversed the threat, but also raised ASLA’s profile on Capitol Hill. ASLA was cited by the influential Democratic Policy Committee as an opponent of the amendment, and multiple senate staffers cited ASLA’s opposition and outreach as a major contributing factor to votes against the amendment.
Threats are continuing, and vigilance and quick action are still required. I commend you all for your support of ASLA and your direct involvement in issues of importance to the profession and to the country. It would be easy in such very difficult and stubborn financial times to lose faith and withdraw. That’s not our style, and the relative health of ASLA and the profession is testimony to that, as are such success stories as I’ve just shared.
There’s a lot more I could tell you about, like the changes I hope you’ve been noticing in our fantastic Landscape Architecture Magazine, the second-largest Annual Meeting and largest Expo in ASLA history, and the progress of our Sustainable Sites Initiative partnership. I urge you to stay engaged and help us help you, as you all did so effectively in 2011. Thank you all.