2014 Canopy Awards

The Inaugural Canopy Awards

Our inaugural Canopy Awards was held on Arbor Day Eve (Thursday, April 24, 2014) at Dock5 @ Union Market. Read about our honorees, four distinguished community leaders who have selflessly dedicated their time and energy to making the Washington, D.C. region green and tree-filled.

Washington, D.C.’s urban forest is so tied to the city’s history that in the late 19th century, it earned its nickname: the “City of Trees.” Since then, our city’s trees have faced many challenges, from the outbreak of Dutch elm disease in the 1950s to expansive urban development that continues today.

Casey Trees was established in 2002 to ease the rapid decline of the District’s tree canopy through tree planting, education and advocacy initiatives. In a little more than a decade, we have planted nearly 17,000 trees, educated thousands of adults and youth on the important benefits trees provide and worked with local government and developers to protect and invest in trees. Additionally, Casey Trees has engaged thousands of people through our mission, graduating hundreds of Citizen Foresters and working with dozens of individuals, community groups, schools, neighborhoods, corporate partners and public officials across the D.C. metro area.

And so the Casey Trees Canopy Awards were created to honor the people, projects and partners that have made a difference in our goal of restoring, enhancing and protecting the tree canopy of the nation’s capital.


These are our honorees for the inaugural Canopy Awards set for Arbor Day Eve — Thursday, April 24, 2014 — at Dock5 @ Union Market. We celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of four distinguished community leaders who have selflessly dedicated their time and energy to making the Washington, D.C. region green and tree-filled.

Tom Sherwood

Tom Sherwood

Special Guest Emcee

Tom Sherwood is a reporter for NBC4 –TV, specializing in politics and the District government. He is the weekly analyst on Fridays for the WAMU 88.5 “Politics Hour” with host Kojo Nnamdi. Tom also writes a weekly Notebook column for the Current Newspapers. Tom has been twice honored as one of the Top 50 Journalists in Washington by Washingtonian magazine. He began his journalism career at The Atlanta Constitution and covered local and national politics for The Washington Post from 1979 to 1989. He is the co-author with Harry Jaffe of Dream City: Race, Power and the Decline of Washington, D.C. A 20th anniversary edition of the book is expected soon. Tom lives in Southwest Washington in what he already calls his retirement home.

Anthony A. Williams

Award for Leadership

When Anthony A. Williams was nearing the end of his second term as Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Washington Post stated that “…on his watch, the District underwent its most profound transformation in generations.”

While Mayor Williams advanced countless quality of life, economic and financial improvements across D.C., his understanding of and appreciation for the environment led to the most significant investment in growing and protecting an American city’s tree canopy at the time.

Under his leadership, Mayor Williams jump-started the city’s street tree planting and preservation efforts by reinvigorating what was then known as the Tree and Landscape Division of the D.C. Department of Transportation – giving it its new name – the Urban Forestry Administration, and increasing its budget from $1M, to over $8M per year. He also supported and signed into law the Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002 – designed not only to help protect the District’s trees, but also to create an understanding that they are are an integral environmental, social and historical component to the city’s past, present and future that cannot be taken for granted.

Under the Williams administration the District planted 25,000 trees, launched a state-of-the-art inventory tracking system and significantly reduced the response time for street tree planting and maintenance. Subsequent administrations have continued to support Mayor Williams’ leadership. Today, D.C. is one of only a handful of cities that have established and has made significant strides toward attaining a 40 percent tree canopy overall.

Melanie Choukas-Bradley

Award for Education

When author and naturalist Melanie Choukas-Bradley moved to Washington, D.C., she discovered that the natural and human history of the city coined “City of Trees” went well beyond the flowering cherries for which it is so well known.

As such Ms. Choukas-Bradley set out to document the botany and history of the region’s trees, with the culmination of her research resulting in the City of Trees: The Complete Botanical and Historical Guide to the Trees of Washington, D.C. Now in its third edition, the field guide book is widely considered to be the go-to resource on the District’s trees.

Her love and passion for trees has inspired her to write other tree focused books including Sugarloaf: The Mountain’s History, Geology, and Natural Lore and An Illustrated Guide to Eastern Woodland Wildflowers and Trees: 350 Plants Observed at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland. Her latest book, A Year in Rock Creek Park: The Wild, Wooded Heart of Washington, D.C. will be published in October 2014.

In addition to being a frequent instructor at Casey Trees, Ms. Choukas Bradley contributes to the development and enrichment of our education programming including Casey Trees’ inaugural Treeathlon — a tree tour by foot, bike and boat. Ms. Choukas Bradley also leads tree tours and speaks on tree topics for such esteemed institutions such as the Audubon Naturalist Society and the U.S. Botanic Garden and can be caught talking about trees on popular radio programs including Kojo Nnamdi.

Betsy Emes

Award for Partnership

Following a successful 30-year career at the World Bank Group, first in the Economic Development Institute, then on issues in the Middle East and Eastern/Central Europe, Betsy Emes committed herself to meeting a pressing local issue — the restoration of Georgetown’s historic street tree canopy.

Since 2006, Mrs. Emes has served as Chair of Trees for Georgetown, a Citizens Association of Georgetown initiative whose mission is to plant and maintain the trees that line the residential streets of Georgetown. Trees for Georgetown has planted more than 2,500 trees with the D.C. Urban Forestry Administration and Casey Trees, ensured those trees were watered during drought periods, added and repaired tree boxes and provided preventative maintenance of at-risk trees — all with privately secured funds and grants.

A vocal proponent for trees, Mrs. Emes is also a familiar presence in the John A. Wilson Building and at Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings advocating for the passage of increased protections for trees on private and public property.

Christy Kwan

Award for Volunteer Service

While Christy Kwan did not plant her first tree until graduate school, she has always lived a tree-filled life. A native of Los Angeles, Ms. Kwan’s childhood was full of adventures to the Huntington Botanical Gardens and lazy days in her backyard under apricot, fig and persimmon trees. Ms. Kwan’s interest and appreciation for trees grew when her graduate studies in Philadelphia pushed her to explore urban agriculture. After relocating to D.C., Ms. Kwan became involved with Casey Trees and an interest in trees quickly became a passion.

Dozens of classes and workshops later, Ms. Kwan now serves as a Lead Citizen Forester and Team Leader at Community Tree Planting events — frequently making multiple bus transfers on early Saturday mornings to not miss out on visiting new neighborhoods, but more importantly, to plant trees alongside neighborhood residents. For Ms. Kwan, Saturday mornings with Casey Trees are about more than just increasing the tree canopy – they are an opportunity to engage with local residents, to learn about their experiences and to be a steward of the environment and of D.C. as the City of Trees. In just three years, Ms. Kwan estimates that she has planted more than 50 trees with the help of 75 enthusiastic volunteers across the Washington, D.C. region.

Ms. Kwan has also jumped feet first into advocacy, becoming Casey Trees’ fourth full-pledged Tree Advocate. Through the program, Ms. Kwan meets with Councilmembers and their staff to urge for greater tree protections and funding, attends Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings and contributes to the training of future advocates.

Relentless in her energy and commitment to the region’s tree canopy, Ms. Kwan now also serves on Casey Trees’ Volunteer Engagement Steering Team to help improve the volunteer experience, and is playing a leading role in our pilot Street Team initiative, a community outreach initiative of Casey Trees’ volunteer program.

Flickr Album – April 24, 2014 Canopy Awards