October 4, 2021 /
Jona Elwell

Get to Know DC’s Urban Forestry Division

It’s no secret that we work with numerous partners. In a city, you have to! Many hands make light work and collaboration is often the key to success. But you may or may not have noticed, there is a partner we mention time and time again – the Urban Forestry Division. After presenting with them at a field session during the Urban Tree Summit, we realized we never really gave them a proper introduction! 

DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division (UFD) is the primary steward of Washington DC’s ~190,000 public trees and has a mission of keeping this resource healthy, safe, & growing. Specifically, they handle the planting, maintenance, and removal of trees in the right of way, the (often green and grassy) area between the street and sidewalk. Their goal is the same as ours: 40% canopy cover in DC by 2032.

Each year, the UFD prunes, plants, & removes thousands of street trees. These decisions support and sustain the lives of both residents and visitors. Urban Forestry prunes the District’s street trees to maintain overall health, form, and safety. Urban Forestry also prunes to give clearance over sidewalks and roadways, over homes and buildings, and to clear views of traffic control devices and street lights. Urban Forestry removes trees that are dead, dying, diseased, or deemed unsafe by a District arborist. Trees are removed in 3 stages for the top, trunk, and stump. They also protect trees and District residents thanks to the passage of the Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002 and updated with the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016. This required the city (and therefore UFD) to establish an urban forest preservation program to preserve the tree canopy on private and District property, require folks to obtain a permit to remove all trees larger than 44” in circumference, and prepare and annually update a 5-year urban forest report and master plan

More literally, in an average year the Urban Forestry Division in an average year:

  1. Responds to over 12,000 service requests
  2. Evaluates over 30,000 street trees for health, condition, and maintenance needs
  3. Generates over 20,000 work orders
  4. Prunes over 6,000 street trees
  5. Removes over 3,000 street trees
  6. Plants over 6,000 street trees
  7. Completes over 5,000 additional work orders that:
  8. Inject elms against Dutch Elm Disease
  9. Spray female ginkgos to inhibit fruiting
  10. Prune and remove trees on an emergency basis and following storms.

Their online portal provides a wealth of information about their tree services, including current figures for a lot of the averages above. The stats they provide include the number of street trees they’ve planted this fiscal year (8,431), trees planted by Ward in the current season (1,300 in Ward 5), the scheduled tree prunings (10,410), removals (2,818), and plantings (4,225). Better yet? They have maps available that show the location of all these services and more.

Check it all out at and if you see a city arborist on your street (or at a Casey Trees planting), say hi!