The 2023 Canopy Awards

This year’s theme is “A Greater Washington”, in recognition of what makes our city great – our volunteers, donors, our DC and regional partners, and of course, our trees.

Countdown to the 2023 Canopy Awards

The Canopy Awards are Casey Trees’ unique way of honoring the people and partners working to restore, enhance, and protect DC’s tree canopy. Held each year on Arbor Day, Casey Trees comes together with donors, volunteers, sponsors, and partners – to toast the accomplishments of our distinguished honorees and celebrate DC’s trees.


For those looking to deepen their engagement, consider becoming a sponsor of the Canopy Awards, Casey Trees’ flagship event of the year. In addition to contributing to the District’s tree canopy, sponsors receive an array of benefits and promotional opportunities. To see the full list, and secure your spot today, click the button below.



Introducing our 2023 Honorees

This year marks the 9th annual Canopy Awards, our unique way of celebrating Arbor Day and honoring the people and partners working to restore, enhance, and protect DC’s tree canopy. We come together each year to toast the accomplishments of our distinguished honorees and celebrate DC’s trees.

This year’s Canopy Awards theme is “A Greater Washington”, in recognition of what makes our city great – our volunteers, donors, our DC and regional partners, and of course, our trees. We work with so many great people and organizations to achieve goals in planting, educating, protecting, and caring for trees – it’s our honor to highlight their efforts and achievements.

We are proud to introduce our 2023 Canopy Awards honorees.

Award for Leadership: Bryant Smith, Executive Director of Baltimore Tree Trust
Bryant Smith is the Executive Director of Baltimore Tree Trust, a nonprofit organization guided by the singular vision that all Baltimore neighbors deserve access to the clean air and cool green spaces that trees can provide. Baltimore Tree Trust plants trees in parks, on private property, and lining streets throughout neighborhoods all over Baltimore, with over 17,000 trees planted to date. Born and raised in East Baltimore, Bryant joined Baltimore Tree Trust in 2019 after more than three decades in urban forestry with the U.S. Forest Service, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, and other regional environmental nonprofits. Bryant leads staff, stakeholders, and the organization’s board of directors to effectively execute the organization’s strategic priorities. Bryant says his favorite part of leading at Baltimore Tree Trust is working with dedicated staff, mentoring a new generation of urban foresters, and working with Baltimore residents to transform once tree-less streets, parks, and schools into green spaces for all to enjoy.

Award for Volunteer Service: Phil Downey, Volunteer with Laudato Trees
Phil Downey is the lead volunteer with the Laudato Trees Team, an offshoot of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington Care for Creation Committee. Inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, The Laudato Trees Team reaches out to faith communities and encourages them to plant trees on their property. They connect interested congregations with Casey Trees’ urban foresters, promote dialog about an ideal plan, and then expedite necessary actions to get trees in the ground. Phil’s efforts and persistence have led to the planting of over 600 trees at churches and schools in the last two years. He is the first to say that this achievement reflects the collective effort of many volunteers, pastors, church workers, and Casey Trees’ urban foresters; but without Phil’s hard work, dedication, and love for trees, most of these trees would not have been planted.

Award for Education: Elana Mintz, Founder and Executive Director of Urban Adventure Squad
Elana Mintz is the Founder and Executive Director of Urban Adventure Squad/Urban Learning and Teaching Center, a Washington DC nonprofit organization that supports schools and school communities with equitable, community-based, outdoor learning programs. Founded in 2014, Urban Adventure Squad (UAS) offers full-day programs when schools are closed, and partners with schools and communities to connect students to their neighborhoods with curriculum-aligned lessons in science, history, math, art, engineering, and writing, and trains teachers in outdoor learning. Prior to founding UAS, Elana spent over 20 years in communications. Elana serves on the DC Coalition for Equitable Outdoor Education, and is a published author for opinions printed in the Washington Post and DC Line. Elana cares deeply about providing outdoor learning experiences for all.

Award for Sustainability: Cheryl Tyiska, Cemetery Manager at Mount Olivet Cemetery
Cheryl Tyiska is the Cemetery Manager at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, DC, a cemetery of the Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington. Mount Olivet Cemetery is located in Northeast DC on a historic hill overlooking the monuments of the nation’s capital, and is the largest Catholic cemetery in the city. Under Cheryl’s leadership the cemetery has focused on sustainable solutions that are not only ecologically friendly, but make the cemetery a more beautiful place to visit. The cemetery has planted more than 850 trees, installed rain gardens to mitigate stormwater runoff, and invested in native plant species to beautify existing areas. In 2020, Mount Olivet Cemetery received the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Mid-Atlantic Chapter’s Gold Leaf Award for outstanding landscape beautification activities, and the cemetery is on track to become a nationally registered arboretum. Cheryl is responsible for all aspects of operations, from inside administrative staff to outside ground crews. Cheryl works hard to ensure that members of the community know they are welcome to visit the cemetery to reflect and look for peace and solace in nature.

Award for Partnership: Brian Keightley, Director of Fairfax County’s Urban Forest Management Division
Brian Keightley is the Director of Fairfax County’s Urban Forest Management Division. The division is not only responsible for the planting of the county’s trees, but monitors pests that threaten the urban forest and health of trees, as well as ensures that county development plans comply with the tree conservation ordinances. Fairfax County is proud to hold a Tree City USA award, a distinction given by the Arbor Day Foundation to recognize excellence in tree planting, tree protection, and funding for green infrastructure – an award the county has received 39 consecutive years, culminating in its 40th anniversary in 2023. During Brian’s tenure the division has furthered outreach activities by promoting the benefits of conservation and enhancement of the urban forest through building strong partnerships with the public, industry professionals, other county agencies, local schools, and nonprofit organizations – including Casey Trees.

Award for Partnership: Brett Linkletter, Chief of Tree Maintenance Section at MCDOT
Brett Linkletter is the Chief of the Tree Maintenance Section for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. The MCDOT Tree Maintenance Section is responsible for maintaining all of the county’s 300,000+ trees, most of which are located along the streets in the right-of-way. As such, the county plants more than 1,800 trees per year, and cares for even more, pruning more than 10,000 trees each year. Additionally, the Tree Maintenance Section creates tree protection plans for all Montgomery County Department of Transportation projects, preserving trees and preventing damage to the county’s green infrastructure. Brett has a lifelong career in forestry and has worked for the county for over 15 years. Brett has led many efforts to further the county’s green infrastructure work and increase the capacity of the tree maintenance section, including partnering with Casey Trees to plant new trees in the county’s right-of-way.

Honoree Categories

We will announce our incredible honorees very soon, check back here to see them! Until then,
click here to to see last years honorees.

Partnershipthis award recognizes a neighborhood, community group, funder or other group that has worked with us to improve the tree canopy in a specific location in the DC metro area. Our canopy needs a patchwork of partners so previous winners run the gamut from single citizens, to bands of community members, and even citywide agencies. These are Trees for Georgetown, Carol Herwig, The Crispus Attucks Development Corporation, Douglas Solomon and Shake Shack Union Station, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation and DC Department of Housing and Community Development, Anacostia Riverkeepers, and Friends of Oxon Run.

Volunteer Service – Volunteers are the backbone of Casey Trees. We’d be lost without them. Especially our volunteers that have been involved for season after season. We rely on their accumulated expertise and friendly spirits to help us train the next cohort of volunteers. Our Canopy Award for Volunteer Service recognizes an individual who has consistently supported our programs and goals through volunteerism for five or more years. Past winners include everyone from tree planting pros, pruning experts, inventory leads, and seasoned tree advocates like Christy Kwan, Andrea Moreland, Gregg Serenbetz, Kerrin and Greg Nishimura, Kathy Robertson, Delores Bushong, Mary Pat Rowan, and Jack Camino. See our Leaflet article to read all about the recipients of this awards.

LeadershipPlanting and caring for trees is important but one of the best ways to protect them is through getting the word out and policy changes. The Canopy Award for Leadership takes this into account and awards the efforts of an individual to raise awareness in the community about the importance of trees through public action, community activism or policymaking. Previous winners are former mayor Anthony A. Williams, Earl Eutsler and DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division, Tommy Wells and District Department of Energy and the Environment, and Councilmembers Mary C. Cheh, Phil Mendelson, and Charles Allen.

EducationThis Canopy Award goes to an active partner of our educational programming showing a dedication to developing opportunities for environmental education. While you might first think of only teachers, think again. Past winners are author and DC tree expert Melanie Choukas-Bradley, extension agent for the University of the District of Columbia Mary Farrah, Capital City Public Charter School Garden Coordinator Ryoko Yamamoto, Horace Mann Elementary Garden Coordinator Amy Jagodnik, DDOT Urban Forestry Division Arborists Steve McKindley-Ward and Joel Conlon, and Kendall Demonstration Elementary School teacher Heidi Burns, WAMU’s Jacob Fenston, and Anacostia High School’s Jeria Carter. In their own sphere, each award winner has pushed for the importance and knowledge of power in protecting city trees.

Sustainability – The Award for Sustainability is our opportunity to showcase a particular project that goes above and beyond. This award highlights a development, project, installation, design, project or product/technology that significantly improves DC’s tree canopy. Past winners and projects have varied greatly. These are Oehme van Sweden’s design of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the District Department of Transportation’s streetscape designs, the DC Office of Planning’s focus on the public parking zone, the Nature Conservancy’s work with Mt. Olivet Cemetery and their stormwater runoff mitigation, DC Water, and most recently, Wayne Lucas of Prince George’s County.