January 10, 2022 /
Jona Elwell

Advocates Testify in Support of the Urban Forest Preservation Authority Amendment Act Of 2021

Earlier this year, Councilmembers Mary Cheh (Ward 3) and Charles Allen (Ward 6) introduced the Urban Forest Preservation Authority Amendment Act of 2021. This bill provides DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division with stop-work order authority, allowing Ward Arborists to immediately halt any activity that violates a tree permit or puts a Special or Heritage Tree at risk of damage or destruction.

Casey Trees worked with tree advocates from around the District to testify in favor of the bill last week. If passed, the bill would ensure our city’s Arborists would be given the tools to be proactive in protecting our city’s largest trees instead of reactive by issuing fines for destroying a tree that could have been saved in the first place.

Advocates also testified that more can be done and that the bill does not go far enough. Additional provisions could further support the protection of our city’s tree canopy:

Protect All Special and Heritage Trees
The Urban Forest Preservation Act (UFPA) does not prohibit the city itself from removing Special or Heritage trees. This easy change can and should be rectified in the proposed amendment so that the city can lead by example.

Strengthen Penalties for Illegally Harming or Removing a Special or Heritage Tree
The UFPA’s fees and fines deter most property owners from illegally removing or harming a Special or Heritage tree, but they do not always dissuade large companies. To rectify this, Casey Trees recommends adding a new penalty to prevent bad actors from receiving a Public Space Permit for up to five years, similar to provisions currently in force in DC’s Tree and Slope Protection Overlay Districts.

Tree Preservation
The Urban Forest Preservation Act is clear on the requirements for removing/relocating Special and Heritage Trees. However, it is silent on avoiding disturbance to a tree’s Critical Root Zone (CRZ) – the area around the tree’s trunk that must be protected if it is to be preserved. Therefore, Casey Trees will recommend adding a definition for the CRZ into the proposed amendment.

For more information and specifics, you can read the testimony of Mark Buscaino, Executive Director of Casey Trees, or check out the full recording of the Committee on Transportation and Environment.