Blog Post By Jona Elwell

Welcome Kelly, Our Director of Policy and Land Conservation

We’ve got some fresh faces here at 3030 12th Street, one of whom is Kelly! Find out more about her prior brushes with Casey Trees and where she sees the new Policy and Land Conservation Department going:

Casey Trees (CT): Welcome to Casey Trees! Tell us, who is Kelly?

Kelly Collins Choi (KCC): I am a Maryland native, and attended the University of Maryland to study Environmental Science and Policy. I earned my MS in Energy Policy & Climate at Johns Hopkins University. I joined the Peace Corps and landed on a small island in Micronesia, where I found a passion for community-based work. Afterward, I headed back to Maryland to work with the Department of Natural Resources. I’ve spent the last fifteen years working on land conservation, climate adaptation, and natural resource planning in and around the Chesapeake Bay. I’m looking forward to bringing that experience to my work with Casey Trees. I live in the Park View neighborhood with my husband, daughter, and dog.  You can usually find me digging in the dirt at my community garden, Wangari Gardens.  

CT: What are you looking forward to doing at Casey Trees as our new Director? Policy and Land Conservation is a newly named department. Can you tell us anything about where the department is headed?

 KCC: I’m very excited to help direct our new focus on Policy & Land Conservation. In addition to all the great advocacy and policy work, Casey Trees is known for, we’ll really be looking to grow our land conservation program. Urban conservation easements are an innovative approach to ensuring long-term protection of pocket forests, urban farms, and green spaces necessary to ensure the health and resilience of our city. Through conservation easements, green spaces are protected and will remain as sustainably managed natural green infrastructure in perpetuity so that the surrounding neighborhoods can reap the benefits of increased air and water quality, food security, heat reduction, and flood mitigation that these spaces provide.

CT: What drew you to Casey Trees?

KCC: I’ve lived in and around Washington, DC for the past 20 years, and have watched many of the changes brought on by development. I’ve always connected with the mission of Casey Trees to restore, enhance, and protect the city’s tree canopy, and wanted to work in my community to further that mission.  I’m thrilled to now be a part of the Casey Trees team!

CT: How did you get interested in the urban forestry and/or environmental nonprofit field?

KCC: I spent a good portion of my childhood reading under a tree. At an early age, I realized how being in nature improved my physical and mental health, and my college studies helped me understand the intrinsic and myriad benefits of our natural ecosystems. I’m passionate about protecting our natural environment, particularly our trees canopy, for future generations.  

CT: What is your favorite weekend DC spot?

KCC: You’ll definitely find me outside! A perfect weekend would include biking through Rock Creek Park and ending up at the Columbia Heights farmers market, or stopping at Union Market for provisions, and then picnicking in the National Arboretum with my family.  

CT: Any new pandemic hobbies or interests?

KCC: Like a lot of people, I’ve finally learned how to bake.  I now make a pretty awesome focaccia bread!

CT: And finally – do you have a favorite tree?           

KCC: When I first moved into the Park View neighborhood of DC, Casey Trees planted a Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea) in my backyard as part of the RiverSmart Homes Program.  It’s been a joy watching it grow over the past 6 years, and I’ve spent many hot summer days playing with my daughter under its shaded canopy.


Article photo courtesy of Kelly Collins Choi.

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