May 31, 2022 /
Casey Trees

Advocacy At Work

On May 27th, DC’s Urban Forestry Division (UFD) posted a stop-work order at 5403 D St., SE, a forested lot near the District of Columbia’s boundary with Maryland. Two Heritage Trees – mature white oaks – on the lot had been poisoned to have them killed and then deemed hazardous, eliminating the need to pay a fine for cutting them down.

During the permitting process, the developers of the lot submitted a Tree Preservation Plan, noting the two dead, hazardous Heritage Trees. UFD arborists had recently evaluated the trees in question and noted they were in good health. Using aerial imagery taken in the summer of 2021, UFD staff confirmed that the trees had died in an unusually short amount of time, so they visited the site to determine what may have caused their rapid decline and death.

While visiting the site, UFD arborists noted holes drilled into the trunks of the two Heritage trees that suggested the use of trunk injection equipment meant to deliver targeted applications of chemicals. The staff took tissue samples from the trees to be analyzed.

The tissue sample analysis showed large quantities of herbicides in the trees. The stop-work order was issued because UFD didn’t know the scope of the herbicide application and thought other trees on site might still be at risk.

Posting a stop-work order only recently became possible thanks to emergency legislation passed by the DC Council in March following two different Heritage trees being illegally cut down. Now, the Council is voting for the second and final time on permanent legislation that would maintain this authority. While nothing can be done to save these two white oaks, this stop-work order could save the other trees on site and elsewhere in the District of Columbia. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to