DOEE Testimony of Robert Shaut
Director of Tree Planting and Operations
June 14, 2021
Budget Oversight Hearing for the Department of Energy and Environment
Committee on Transportation and the Environment
Good afternoon. My name is Rob Shaut, Director of Tree Operations at Casey Trees. Our mission is to restore, enhance, and protect the tree canopy of our nation’s capital. Thanks for the opportunity to testify.
Over the past year, the limitations of the pandemic encouraged many to rediscover nature, leading to a sharp increase in outdoor recreation and park use throughout the region. Credit goes to DOEE who encouraged and facilitated these connections to nature during this difficult time, both virtually and through programs like Riversmart Homes. With support from Riversmart, Casey Trees was able to to plant 2,000 trees since the beginning of the calendar year, with 65 percent of them located in Wards 5, 7, and 8; helping to cool our most heat sensitive communities.
We would like to thank Mayor Bowser and Director Wells for the robust budget proposed for fiscal year 2022. The unprecedented 69 percent increase in operational funding and 40 percent increase in capital funding will go a long way to supporting Washington DC’s natural resources. All of us at Casey Trees were particularly excited to see the $257,000 enhancement for green infrastructure initiatives, and almost $8.1 million in one-time federal money for green infrastructure maintenance.
Green infrastructure BMP’s provide heat reduction, stormwater management and other benefits, and – once established they can even beautify a neighborhood. However, left unmaintained they can become eyesores leading to public resistance to future installations, and a drain on DC government staff time responding to complaints. This is why Casey Trees has provided matching funds for a BMP maintenance pilot with DOEE. We look forward to learning lessons from this pilot and hope to expand these maintenance efforts in partnership with DOEE and communities throughout the City.
Finally, the green infrastructure maintenance line under the proposed budget is only temporary. Yes, $8.1 million is a lot of money, but it originates from the CARES Act and will not last forever. Casey Trees therefore strongly recommends that moneys for BMP maintenance be built into the DOEE budget as a permanent yearly expenditure to be sure the good work that has been started with our pilot maintenance program and the infusion of Federal CARES Act funding will continue on in perpetuity as it must for these living stormwater maintenance facilities.
Washington, D.C. is a leader in the environmental arena, and DOEE is at the forefront to ensure a greener, more sustainable City for the benefit of all Washingtonians. We thank DOEE and this Committee for this cutting edge work, and for your consideration of our comments here today.