Tree Report Card



Casey Trees is a Washington, DC - based nonprofit committed to restoring, enhancing, and protecting the tree canopy of our nation’s capital. We pursue our mission through community action, education and research.

Casey Trees’ Tree Report Card measures the quantity and condition of DC’s trees and the collective efforts of groups and individuals working to achieve the District’s 40 percent tree canopy goal. It is based on data collected from both public and private sources, including the District and Federal Governments, universities, developers, nonprofits, and others.

Note from the Executive Director

Note from the Executive Director

We all know how difficult it is to act when a challenging situation arises. Many, if not most of us procrastinate, and our collective inaction on climate change is undoubtedly the most extreme example.

If there’s any good news, years of inaction on climate change have allowed us to develop new shared knowledge. When we hear that 100-year floods occur every 25, or that the shrinking snowpack will eliminate small farming communities – we understand. Closer to home, we now know that increasing summer temperatures colliding with DC’s growing concrete and asphalt surfaces means that the City’s most vulnerable residents face new health dangers.

The most recent data has been disheartening for the climate change puzzle piece we focus on at Casey Trees – increasing DC’s tree canopy. Washington DC’s canopy, previously 38%, dropped to 37%. One percent seems small, but for DC, this means 550 acres’ worth of trees. In stark terms, envision a forest clearcut the size of the National Mall.

While discouraging, this situation is reversible, and all we need to do is look at DC’s street trees as an example. Twenty years ago, the City had 120,000 street trees; today it’s 175,000 . However, this success is due mainly because street trees are on public lands – and there are no impediments to planting trees on public lands where space is available.

We cannot attain 40% canopy by simply planting more street trees. To achieve the goal tree planting must occur on private land as well. Ample resources exist to plant thousands more trees – free trees – on private land but permission must be obtained for each one, slowing the effort. And, it’s an unfortunate reality that many people simply don’t want trees on their property – even if they’re free.

This is where you can help. Do your part – plant a tree on your lot or at your apartment, tell a neighbor to do the same, request a tree for a nearby park or to fill an empty street tree box. Get involved. But most important – please – act now while there’s still time to.

All it takes is a tree and a bucket of water – and Casey Trees can help.

Thanks as always for your support!

Mark's Signature

Spotlight: New Tree Canopy Data

For the first time since 2006, DC saw a net 1% canopy cover decline 1 .[1] This decline is equal to 565 acres, an area roughly the size of the National Mall, and is a setback to reaching the City’s goal of 40% tree canopy by 2032.

Geographically, the greatest declines happened in Wards 5, 7, and 8 – DC’s most vulnerable areas.

Canopy Change by Ward 2015-2020

Canopy Change



from most to least canopy loss

Current Canopy



from most to least canopy loss
Ward Canopy Change 2015-2020 (%) Current Canopy 2020 (%) Potential Canopy (%)
1 +1.1 24.4 31.4
2 -1.0 27.3 36.9
3 -1.2 59.0 70.8
4 +0.2 49.5 62.9
5 -2.6 29.4 49.4
6 -1.8 18.8 27.2
7 -2.1 38.5 58.9
8 -2.2 29.9 52.0
Canopy Change on DC Owned Property 2015-2020

By land-use, low/medium density residential zones (-2%) and public lands/parks/vacant lots (-3%) were hit hardest. While public lands lost canopy overall, a slight gain (1%) was seen in public right-of-ways (street trees), due to the City’s 20-year commitment to re-tree its streetsides.

Canopy Change by Land Use Type 2015-2020
Land Use Category* Canopy Change (%) Canopy Change (Acres)
High Density Residential -1.2 -17.8
Institutional -0.5 -11.8
Low Density Residential -2.2 -170.8
Medium Density Residential -1.8 -18.19
Not Specified -1.1 -47.7
Public and Parks -3.2 -152.2
Vacant -3.1 -161.1

*Percent losses derived from land use category, not all DC land.

Losses in Wards 5, 7 and 8 were likely fueled by lower land prices in these Wards and increased development. With population pressures, this trend can be expected to continue. Casey Trees supports development to accommodate incoming and existing residents, but development that does not consider trees and greenspace to ensure better physical and social health outcomes is not sustainable. At worst, developments that add more concrete and asphalt to areas already experiencing elevated heat levels and poor air quality will exacerbate negative health outcomes, especially for DC’s most at-risk residents in Wards 5, 7 and 8.

Beyond our Borders

The canopy loss experienced in the District was also seen in Prince George’s (PG), Montgomery (MOCO), and Fairfax Counties, ranging from 0.3% to 2.2%. Casey Trees will spotlight canopy trends in neighboring jurisdictions to keep policy makers, elected officials and residents informed on this important topic in future Tree Report Cards.

Canopy Loss by County 2014-2018*
County Canopy 2018 (%) Canopy Loss 2014-2018 (%) Canopy Loss (Acres)
Fairfax 53.6 0.3 633
MOCO 45.5 1.8 5838
PG 50.4 2.2 6997

*Chesapeake Conservancy Land Cover Data Project, preliminary 2018 data.


The Tree Report Card is Casey Trees’ annual evaluation of DC 's urban forest. It looks at where our successes have been over the past year and highlights where improvements can be made. This year the District received an overall grade of A-.

Grade Components Explained

The Tree Report Card rates Washington DC’s urban forest based on four metrics: Tree Coverage, Tree Health, Tree Planting and Tree Protection. Each metric is evaluated using a standard formula and given a letter grade. This year’s overall grade of A- is based upon the average of four categories that are graded individually and explained in detail below.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 B- B- C N/A B- B- B- B- A A A A- A A-

This metric measures the quantity of tree canopy covering District land. Aerial imagery – both satellite and fly-over images – are used to measure the City’s tree canopy from above and track progress toward DC’s 40 percent tree canopy goal. Recently collected data measured the change from 2015-2020, and showed tree canopy decreased from 38% to 37%, or a loss of 1%. For this reason, Tree Coverage receives an A- grade.


Calculations Explained

Existing tree canopy coverage/Tree canopy goal

37/40 = 93%

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 B B+ B+ B+ A- A- A- A- A A A A A A-

This metric evaluates tree health and condition across the District on all public and private lands, both DC and federally-owned. The grade was taken from the results of the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) survey. FIA is a sampling method used to assess forests across the United States. More recently it is being deployed to look at the conditions of trees in US cities, DC being one of them.

From the FIA results, there are approximately 2.14 million trees within the District of Columbia. Of these 2+ million trees, 91% of fell into the condition class of either “excellent” or “good,” resulting in a tree health grade of A-.


Calculations Explained

Trees in good or excellent health/
Trees surveyed

2 mil/2.14 mil = 93%

people planting on a cool day
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 A+ B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- A-

This metric compares the number of trees planted each year to the number required for DC to meet its 40% canopy goal. In total, 13,722 trees were planted by the City and its partners in 2021. This far exceeds the annual planting target of 10,500 trees. The Tree Planting score for this year’s Tree Report Card therefore receives an A+ grade.

volunteers digging with shovels and a pickax

Calculations Explained

Total trees planted/tree planting goal

13,722/10,500 = 131%

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 B C- A+ A+ A+ A- A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+

This metric measures the effectiveness of the City’s laws in protecting Special and Heritage Trees. The final grade for Tree Protection, B, is based on the average of the following three sub-metrics, as follows:


Calculations Explained

Average of Submetrics

a volunteer measuring the circumference of the tree trunk

Submetric 1: Are the fees/fines required to remove Special Trees keeping pace with inflation?
The fee to remove a Special Tree, set in 2016, is $55 per inch of circumference. In order to keep pace with inflation, that figure should be $66 today. While this difference may seem small, it translates to an overall loss of $505,864 in fees, approximately 600 fewer trees planted. We therefore assign this submetric a B grade[2]

Submetric 2: Are fees and fines being used to plant replacement trees?
The Urban Forest Preservation Act requires that fees and fines collected into the Tree Fund be used to plant trees on public and private land. Moneys in the Tree Fund continue to be used as stipulated for tree planting, and none have been diverted for other purposes. We therefore assign this submetric a Passing, or A grade.

Submetric 3: Are Heritage Trees being protected according to the law?
Given the outsized impacts illustrated in recent reports of illegal Heritage Tree removals, we struggled when using our existing methodology for this sub-metric. We do know that most Heritage Trees are being protected: of 230 identified there were 206 preserved and 24 known illegal removals. The straight calculation would warrant a B+ grade for this, but given that the law states that under no circumstances these trees should be removed except via Mayoral Decree, and because approximately the same number of Heritage Trees were illegally removed last year, we felt it appropriate to change our methodology from prior years and instead, are assigning this sub-metric a Failing, or F grade.

Casey Trees’ position is that the City needs to modify its laws and tracking to ensure that illegal removals of Heritage Trees are exceedingly rare (under 5%). This may be accomplished through changes to the Urban Forest Preservation Act, already underway, as noted in the recommendations section of this report.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 B- B- C N/A B- B- B- B- A A A A- A- B

[1]Open Data DC – “Land Cover 2020”:

[2]Total paid into the Tree Fund/total adjusted for CPI (2,369,085/2,800,258 = 84%)



Pass the Urban Forest Preservation Authority Amendment Act of 2022. This Act will, among other things: provide the Urban Forestry Division authority to issue stop-work orders to avoid irreparable damage to Special and Heritage Trees, extend protections to trees in public spaces, strengthen Tree Preservation Plans to avoid harm to protected trees, and increase penalties for bad actors.


Create a new position within the Urban Forestry Division to coordinate with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. This will improve how Tree Preservation Plans are submitted and reviewed across agencies and ensure they are appropriately designed before construction permits are issued.


Protect open spaces from being developed by working with the DC Council, District agencies and private landowners to identify greenspace that could be conserved in easements.


Increase fees and fines for legal and illegal removal of Special Trees to not only make up for inflation, but also to act as a stronger deterrent for removal given skyrocketing land values.


Create a Heritage Tree Registry where residents can register their Heritage Trees in a District-wide catalogue. This will help Casey Trees and our partners better understand the location and health of our largest trees and how best to protect them.


Establish tree canopy goals for public and private schools/universities. When students are taught in a green learning environment, they not only internalize the benefits that trees and greenspace offer – they also pass that lesson along to others in the communities where they live.


Casey Trees would like to thank the following partners for making trees a priority by planting, caring for and protecting them as well as sharing information used in this report.

District of Columbia:

Local and Regional:

Office of the Mayor

Office of Planning

Office of Zoning

Department of Energy and the Environment

Department of Parks and Recreation

Department of Transportation: Urban Forestry Division

District Department of General Services

Office of the Chief Techonology Officer

University of DC


General Services Administration

National Park Service

USDA Forest Service

Friends of Oxon Run

Anacostia Coordinating Council

Anacostia Waterfront Trust

Anacostia Watershed Society

Groundwater Anacostia

DC Environmental Network

National Capital Planning Commission

The Nature Conservancy

Sustainable DC Partners

Trees for Capitol Hill

Chesapeake Conservancy

11th Street Bridge Project

Nature Sacred

DC Greens

Montgomery County

Prince George’s County

Fairfax County

National Links Trust


Potomac Electric Power Company

Trees for Georgetown

Washington Parks and People


Ward 8 Woods

Chesapeake Bay Trust

Building Bridges Across the River

Howard University

American University

Gallaudet University

Georgetown University

George Washington University

The Catholic University of America

City of Hyattsville

Town of Cheverly

Laudato Trees

Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdioceses of Washington