Tree Report Card
Casey Trees’ Tree Report Card measures the quantity and condition of D.C.’s trees and the collective efforts of all groups and individuals working to achieve the District’s 40 percent tree canopy goal. It is based on data from various sources, including federal, state and private groups.
Over the past decade the District and its partners have accomplished a great deal toward achieving the city’s 40 percent canopy goal. One example is particularly telling — tree planting numbers have skyrocketed. In 2008, the year we first started tracking tree numbers, partners collectively planted 4,000 trees. In 2015, tree planting numbers exceeded 12,000.
But achieving a canopy goal is a marathon, not a sprint — and there are many hurdles on the roadway to success. Trees planted today will take years before their canopy can be assessed, seasonal droughts can set back planting efforts and development will continue to take a toll on D.C.’s trees.
Despite these challenges an enormous opportunity is within our grasp — more tree plantings in city parks could help fill the gap between the existing 36 percent canopy and the goal of 40 percent. Our analysis shows that more robust planting in Federal and District-owned parks could get us to within one percent of the goal.
But how do we get there?
We challenge the District and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) to:
- Set individual park canopy, tree planting goals
- Increase park tree maintenance budgets
- Assign the management of tree planting and tree care for all District-owned lands to the Urban Forestry Administration (UFA)
These actions would not only ensure more shade in our city’s parks, they would also help improve city and federal parklands — gems of our nation’s capital — now and for future generations.
Thank you for your continued support of our efforts. I look forward to planting a tree with you soon!
Parks present an amazing opportunity for the District and its partners to realize the city’s 40 percent canopy goal.
That is why the 2015 Tree Report Card, our eighth annual, highlights parks. Parks provide the necessary plantable space and important neighborhood amenities deserving of our collective attention and investment.
For example, Rock Creek Park, Lincoln Park, and the National Mall are three iconic, federally-owned parks that provide innumerable yet tangible benefits to the nation’s capital. D.C.’s smaller, city-owned parks such as Langdon Park, Takoma Recreation Center, and Garfield Park are equally important and beloved by residents.
It’s hard to imagine Washington D.C. without these treasures, and even more difficult to imagine these parks without trees — but some are already in that state. In fact, 87 D.C. parks have less than 20 percent canopy. And many trees in these parks are in poor condition or declining health.D.C. Parks
Planting more trees in D.C. parks will bring countless benefits to local residents. A good example of this is Yards Park in Southeast D.C. Once an industrial brownfield, Yards Park is now a grassy strip with newly planted trees that will over time transform this site into a shaded, green oasis.
Simply said, trees make parks more enjoyable, increase their use, reduce upkeep needs, and help the city achieve its 40 percent tree canopy goal. Parks are a viable and practical solution for re-treeing D.C.
Yards Park, Southeast D.C., Once an industrial brownfield is now a grassy strip with newly planted trees.
Tree Coverage is a measure of a tree’s crown when viewed from above. The tree crown or canopy produces most of the trees overall benefits.
The District’s current canopy is 36 percent, resulting in an A-.
Tree Health measures tree condition, species, size, and type. This metric helps us understand how resilient the District’s trees are in terms of potential threats due to pests and disease, and helps predict the urban forest’s longevity and future composition.
Every five years data is collected from 201 sample sites across the District using i-Tree Eco. Our 2015 survey determined 83 percent of D.C.’s 2.4 million trees to be in good to excellent condition, resulting in a B-.
A minimum of 10,648 trees must be planted annually for the next 16 years to reach the goal. In 2015, 12,337 trees were collectively planted on private and public land resulting in an A+.
Tree Protection assesses the impact of the Urban Forestry Preservation Act (UFPA) of 2002, a law intended to slow the removal of healthy trees
55 inches in circumference or greater, and ensure replacement trees are planted when they are
cut down. Under UFPA, the removal of a Special Tree requires a fee, or fine to be paid if removed illegally, to fund replacement plantings.
Submetric 1: Is the UFPA discouraging the removal of healthy Special Trees?
Based on the Consumer Price Index, if the $35 per-inch fee set in 2002 kept pace with inflation, it would have been $47 in 2015. Therefore, the current fee is 24 percent less effective, resulting in a C grade.
Submetric 2: Are replacement trees effectively replacing canopy removed?
Periodic assessments are necessary to determine if replacement trees are replenishing canopy lost when Special Trees are removed. However, these replacement trees are not surveyed to determine if they are alive or dead because no legal requirement mandates it. With no data, the submetric grade is an F.
Submetric 3: Is the Tree Fund being administered properly?
UFPA requires D.C. to use Tree Fund money, funds collected from fines and fees, to plant replacement trees. An analysis of Fiscal Year 2015 Tree Fund receipts and disbursements show funds having been used for tree replanting, resulting in an A+.
The average of these submatrices, results in an F.
Casey Trees’ Tree Report Card measures the collective efforts of many groups and individuals working to achieve 40 percent canopy by 2032. Based on the percentages for Tree Coverage (90 percent); Tree Health (83 percent); Tree Planting (100 percent); and Tree Protection (59 percent), D.C.’s overall grade for 2015 is B-.
While this year’s grade holds steady from previous years, several extremely positive developments occurred in this reporting year that are worth highlighting.
- The District’s Department of Energy and Environment and the District Department of Transportation co-hosted a Tree Summit in December 2015 to determine how to better collaborate internally, and with other stakeholders to achieve the canopy goal. The Tree Summit, attended by more than 100 city and federal agency staff, nonprofits, and businesses has generated new and strengthened existing partnership efforts.
- Mayor Muriel Bowser, by Executive Order, created the Urban Tree Canopy Coordinating Council to accelerate tree planting and protection efforts among all stakeholders.
- The District co-launched Canopy3000, an exciting new initiative to get an additional 3,000 trees planted on private and public lands across D.C. to bring collective tree planting totals to 15,000.
During the creation of this report, the D.C. Council is considering the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act (TCPAA) of 2016, legislation co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen (Ward 6) and Mary M. Cheh (Ward 3). This critically needed legislation would update the UFPA, helping to better protect trees and bolstering public and private efforts to reach 40 percent tree canopy.
First, we Are pleased to say that one of our key recommendations included in the 2014 Tree Report Card, the creation of a Tree Canopy Coordinating Council, was adopted in 2015. And if the D.C. Council passes the TCPAA this spring, many of our other recommendations will also be implemented.
These successes demonstrate the value of that increases residential connections to city the Tree Report Card. And that is why we are using this platform to introduce additional recommendations that will grow and safeguard canopy cover citywide.
We ask Mayor Bowser to:
- Adopt a 50 percent canopy goal for all Department of Parks and Recreation managed properties.
- Initiate a planning process to create designs for neighborhood parks that incorporate more trees and better growing spaces, make parks safer and increase use.
- Prepare and execute an Open Space Plan that increases residential connections to city greenspace as called for by the Sustainable DC Plan.
- Place conservation easements on city-owned greenspaces to ensure they remain green for the continued benefit of future generations of Washingtonians.
- 2014 Tree Report Card: PDF (Overall grade B-)
- 2013 Tree Report Card: PDF (Overall grade B-)
- 2012 Tree Report Card: PDF (Overall grade B-)
- 2011 Tree Report Card: PDF (Overall grade Incomplete)
- 2010 Tree Report Card: PDF (Overall grade C)
- 2009 Tree Report Card: PDF (Overall grade B-)
- 2008 Tree Report Card: PDF (Overall grade B)
Casey Trees Thanks the following cooperators for planting and caring for trees in D.C. as well as sharing their data to assess the collective efforts which have been complied and published in this report:
Bowser Administration and in particular:
- Department of Transportation — Urban Forestry Administration
- Department of General Services
- Department of Parks & Recreation
- Department of Energy & Environment
Anacostia Watershed Society
The American University
The Catholic University of America
Crispus Attucks Development Corporation
George Washington University Groundwork Anacostia
Pepco Holding Inc.
Restore Mass Ave
Rock Creek Conservancy
Sustainable DC partners
Trees for Capital Hill
Trees for Georgetown
U.S. General Services Administration U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. National Park Service
Washington Parks and People