Special Tree and Tree Spaces Regulations Comments

September 27, 2016

Alice Kelly
Manager, Policy and Governmental Affairs
District Department of Transportation
55 M Street, S.E., 7th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20003

RE: Special Tree and Tree Spaces Rulemaking.

Dear Ms. Kelly,

Casey Trees is a Washington DC-based nonprofit with a mission to restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of the nation’s capital. We are dedicated to helping the District meet its 40 percent tree canopy goal by 2032 – an achievable goal that requires policies and regulations that serve as a bulwark for growing the city’s urban forest. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the proposed Special Tree and Tree Spaces Rulemaking.

Our city’s streets and sidewalks are framed by green spaces filled with trees. The District’s street trees not only provide shade and beauty, but also buffer pedestrian corridors and outdoor seating areas from traffic and noise of the street. With increasing population and density, the need for healthy trees and green space also increases. It is essential that the District protect these valuable natural resources by adopting long-term design policies to help trees thrive. That is why we support the proposed rules amending Title 24, Chapter 1, governing the beautification of tree spaces.

Tree Spaces

The specific rules regarding the design of tree spaces to protect the health of street trees, as outlined in Sections 109.9 and 109.10, are appropriate and would contribute to fostering conditions for a vigorous and well managed community forest. Good design policy can transform these spaces into community assets for generations to come.

Additionally, the regulation concerning mulch spreads (Section 109.7) is in line with best practices to help keep street trees healthy. Enforcement of this rule will hopefully curb the harmful practice of volcano mulching, or applying mulch that is excessively deep and pushed up against the trunk of the tree, which can contribute to the decline of a tree’s health.

Special Trees

Tree policies reflect the values of a community, and the zeal residents and city officials have for our city’s trees is without dispute. Over 500 District residents signed Casey Trees’ petition calling for stronger tree protections that were later affirmed by the DC Council’s unanimous decision to pass the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016. This legislation updated the District’s original Tree Bill (the Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002) to help grow the District’s tree canopy.

In this proposed rulemaking, the rules under Title 24, Chapter 37 make reference to two specific policies from the original Tree Bill that are no longer valid. In particular, it states that Special Trees are those 55 inches or greater in circumference (on page 1 of the rulemaking), and under Subsection 3701.7

the proposed rule states the fee for removing Special Trees is $35 per inch of circumference. The Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act, which went into effect July 1, updated these policies: a Special Tree is any tree measured between 44-100 inches in circumference, and the Special Tree removal fee is $55 per inch in circumference.

We ask that the proposed rulemaking be updated to reflect these changes and to amend Title 24.37 Subsection 3799.1 to define Special Tree as a tree within the District of Colombia that is between 44 and 100 inches in circumference.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at ssazawal@caseytrees.org or 202 349-3472.

Suraj K. Sazawal
Policy Advocate