Maisie Hughes, Director of Design and Advocacy
March 13, 2017
Performance Oversight Hearing on the District Department of Transportation
Before the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment
Good afternoon councilmembers, I am Maisie Hughes, Director and Design and Advocacy for Casey Trees. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the District Department of Transportation’s performance.
Casey Trees’ mission is to “restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of the nation’s capital.” Achieving this mission is not possible without help of the District agencies that impact tree canopy. In particular, DDOT’s Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) is key to our success in ensuring all residents benefit from a healthy and robust tree canopy. Because UFA is an agency of arborist with the technical expertise to care for our city’s trees, Casey Trees has advocated to expand UFA’s mission from managing “a healthy population of street trees” to include managing trees on other DC owned properties. UFA has done a fantastic job addressing their new responsibilities by providing more public engagement and engagement materials, modifying tree permitting processes and implementing new policies and procedures to manage its new role.
In addition to advocating for an expanded role for UFA, Casey Trees has worked to foster a partnership between UFA and our staff and volunteers. I am happy to report that under the leadership of Associate Director and State Forester Earl Eutsler, our partnership with UFA is stronger than it has ever been.
Last year, Casey Trees and UFA co-launched a citywide park tree inventory. By pairing volunteer Citizen Scientists and UFA arborists, we inventoried a variety of DC parks and connected residents with the arborists that care for our beloved trees. In this process, residents learned arboricultural standards for tree inventory and the scientific metrics for healthy trees. We are using the findings to help identify park greening opportunities. This goodwill effort on behalf of UFA is a shining example of true public service and we hope to continue this program in future years.
UFA has also used their citywide tree inventory system to ramp up tree street tree planting in areas of the city where residents are less likely to request trees. For example, UFA has inventoried 93 percent of the trees in Ward 8 over the last four years and planted 1,000 new trees in the Ward in this planting season alone.
Our tree planting team has been working diligently to achieve the planting metrics outlined in he Mayor’s Canopy 3,000 program. With the help of a number of outstanding arborists at UFA, we were able to plant hundreds trees and identify high priority areas across the city. UFA arborist are the most motivated, efficient and supportive of all the civil servants we work with. They have been true partners in helping to not only plant trees, but to facilitate tree planting efforts and providing tree planting design support.
We are proud to live in a city that values its trees and to have this Council fight to preserve them. Last year, this Council proved its commitment to trees by unanimously passing the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act. This law was long overdue, and will go a long way to help us to re-green DC. But there is still more work to be done. The gains we have made in growing the tree canopy will quickly be reversed if the Heritage Tree Protection provision of the law is removed. The science is clear, we cannot increase tree cover without a proper reverence for the trees that are the oldest and largest. Our heritage trees are not only our connection to the city’s history, they are the linchpin to our green future. We are asking you to fight any and all attempts to repeal protections for these majestic trees.