Tree Report Card



Casey Trees’ mission is to restore, enhance, and protect the tree canopy of our nation’s capital. We pursue that mission through tree planting, education, community action and land preservation. To guide our efforts and those of our partners, each year we publish a Tree Report Card (TRC) that measures progress toward achieving the District’s 40% tree canopy goal, and the extent and condition of DC’s trees.

Note from the Executive Director

Note from the Executive Director

Last year Casey Trees reported that DC lost 550 acres of canopy—an area roughly the size of the National Mall—largely to development. While we recognize that a growing DC is a healthy DC, development that does not preserve existing trees and replace those that are lost makes neighborhoods hot, unhealthy, and unsustainable.

In response, this past year we helped to pass the Urban Forest Preservation Authority Amendment Act, aimed in large part to reduce tree loss on development sites. On the back of that success, and to mark the many other ways we seek to attain our mission, we’ve titled the theme of this year’s Tree Report Card: Turning a New Leaf.

As you read through this year’s Tree Report Card, keep in mind that Casey Trees does not work alone. We continue to rely on supporters like you to strengthen our work through financial contributions, tree planting and maintenance, engaging with City Council in support of our advocacy actions, and many other ways.

On behalf of all of us at Casey Trees, for all of you who have contributed, thank you.

Mark's Signature

Spotlight: Expanding Tree Protections

an elm damaged by construction the illegal removal of a tree an attempt to protect a holly from construction the sad remnants of a very wide stump

Spotlight: Expanding Tree Protections

Illegal removals of protected Special and Heritage trees on development sites have increased because the fines are set too low to act as a deterrent. To help close this loophole, last year the DC Council passed the Urban Forest Preservation Authority Amendment Act (UFPAAA).

The UFPAAA is transformative for several reasons. First, it allows city arborists the ability to issue “Stop Work Orders” to shut down a jobsite when trees are being damaged. Second, the City can now revoke the business licenses of those involved in illegal tree removals and triple the fines. Third, it strengthens and improves requirements for Tree Preservation Plans. Finally, it extends protections of Special and Heritage Trees to City-owned lands.

While this year’s Tree Protection grade is not as we would hope, the stricter provisions of the UFPAAA are already having a positive impact. And, we wish to publicly thank the Urban Forestry Division staff for their work tracking and enforcing DC’s tree protection laws. It is a difficult job, and it has taken years for citizens to understand that tree protection is as important, if not more important, to growing and maintaining DC’s canopy than planting trees.

Spotlight: Absence of a Regional Canopy Goal

Spotlight: Absence of a Regional Canopy Goal

Often the best way to generate results is to set a purposeful goal. In 2008 only 4,000 trees/year were being planted in the District of Columbia. Casey Trees set a canopy goal of 40% by 2032, which was linked to an annual planting target of 8,600 trees/year. Then, in 2013 the DC government set a more ambitious canopy goal, increasing the tree planting target to 10,500/year. Planting numbers have remained strong ever since.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) was established to develop solutions to shared regional problems facing its 24 member governments in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. In 2018, MWCOG published a tree canopy strategy document*, but failed to establish a regional canopy goal to guide and inspire its members as they grapple with the loss of their trees and forests.

Casey Trees urges MWCOG to track and publicize regional canopy data more systematically, and most of all, to set a regional canopy goal for its members to work toward.

*See page 17 for a list of recommendations to preserve and enhance the regions trees and forests

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
DC 37.0 1.0 565

*Chesapeake Conservancy Land Cover Data Project, preliminary 2018 data.
Data is from 2015-2020

DC Metro Area Canopy Cover

Use the map's zoom feature to see canopy cover for DC and smaller jurisdictions.

Tree canopy figures are as reported by each jurisdiction in the indicated year, and may differ from Chesapeake Conservancy data due to variation in analyses.



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, Casey Trees is pleased to announce that the District received an overall grade of B.

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 B 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 2022 B- B- C N/A B- B- B- B- A A A A- A A- B

This metric measures the quantity of tree canopy covering District land. Both satellite and fly-over images are used to measure the City’s canopy and track progress toward DC’s 40% goal. Recently collected data measured the change from 2015-2020, showing tree canopy decreased from 38% to 37%, or a loss of 1%. Despite this loss, canopy is still 37% overall, resulting in a Tree Coverage grade of A-.


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 2022 B B+ B+ B+ A- A- A- A- A A A A A A- A-

This metric evaluates the health of the District’s trees on all lands – private and public. The grade was taken from the results of the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) survey that assesses forests across the United States. FIA data is also being used to examine the condition of trees in US cities, including DC. To explore more of DC’s or other city’s FIA tree data, check out My City’s Trees.

The FIA results show that of the 2.14 million trees within the District of Columbia, roughly 2.0 million or 91% were classified as either “excellent” or “good,” resulting in a tree health grade of A-.


Calculations Explained

Healthy trees/
Trees surveyed
= 91%

people planting on a cool day
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 A+ B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- A- A-

This metric compares the number of trees planted each year to the number required for the City to meet its 40% canopy goal. Altogether, Casey Trees and our partners exceeded the City’s annual planting target of 10,500 trees by planting 12,111 trees in 2022. 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

12,111/10,500 = 115%

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 B C- A+ A+ A+ A- A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+

This metric measures the effectiveness of the District’s laws in protecting Special and Heritage trees. The final grade is an average of four sub-metrics, each graded as “pass” or “fail” with a score of 100 or 0, respectively. This year, two sub-metrics passed and two failed, resulting in an overall score of 50% or a failing grade.


Calculations Explained

Average of Submetrics

a volunteer measuring the circumference of the tree trunk

Sub-metric 1: Have fees and fines in the Urban Forest Preservation Act kept pace with inflation?
The fee to remove a Special tree, set in 2016, is $55 per inch of circumference. The fee for illegal removal of Special and Heritage trees is set at $300. Adjusted for inflation, these fees/fines should be $70 and $375 respectively.
The revenue reduction experienced from these outdated fees/fines means a loss of approximately 1,500 trees this year alone, although, this does not account for the thousands of other trees that have also not been planted in prior years because of a similar loss in revenue.
We therefore assign this sub-metric a failing grade. [1] Casey Trees has urged the DC government to correct this deficiency for the past three years, but no action has been taken.

Sub-metric 2: Are fees and fines for tree removals being deposited into the Tree Fund as required?
The Urban Forest Preservation Act requires that fees and fines from tree law violations are deposited into the Tree Fund. This past year, $270K of $2.2M in fees/fines were instead directed to the General Fund, resulting in a 12% loss to the Tree Fund and loss of over 770 replacement trees. this sub-metric therefore receives a failing grade. [2]
Casey Trees asks the Office of the Chief Financial Officer to work with partner agencies to ensure funds are deposited into the Tree Fund as required by law.

Sub-metric 3: Is the Tree Fund being used as intended?
The Urban Forest Preservation Act requires that Tree Fund moneys be used to plant trees on public and private lands, and to support the Income Contingent Hazardous Tree Mitigation Program. Moneys in the Tree Fund continue to be used as required by law, and none have been diverted for other purposes. We therefore assign this sub-metric a passing grade.

Sub-metric 4: Are Heritage Trees being protected according to the law?
In 2022 the City processed 431 Heritage Tree permit requests and there were 22 reported illegal Heritage Tree removals. While the illegal removal of any Heritage Tree represents a significant loss, this low number indicates that the City is reasonably keeping pace with the process as required by law. We therefore assign this sub-metric a passing grade. [3]
We anticipate the full implementation of the Urban Forest Preservation Authority Amendment Act will further reduce the number of illegal Heritage Tree removals - last year alone 13 “Stop Work Orders” were issued to protect trees under imminent threat.However, we have also received evidence that weekend 311 calls reporting illegal tree removals were not responded to. We ask the City to address this issue which we will monitor over the coming year.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 B- B- C N/A B- B- B- B- A A A A- A- B F

[1]We determine if this sub-metric passes by using a 5% threshold from the base fee. Current fees and fines exceed the threshold by 15% or more.

[2]We determine if this sub-metric passes if 95% of all fees and fines from tree law violations are deposited into the Tree Fund. Fund diversions found to be greater than 5% will receive a failing grade.

[3]We have assigned a tolerance of 5% as the threshold for illegal Heritage Tree removals based on number of permits requested. In next year’s TRC, we will add another sub-metric to determine if Special Trees are also being protected within a 5% threshold.



Increase fees and fines for the removal of Special and Heritage Trees to account for inflation. This is the third year the TRC has made this recommendation. This adjustment may be made administratively, but the City has refused to act resulting in the loss of thousands of replacement trees.


Ensure all fees and fines are deposited to the Tree Fund as required by law. Fines collected through the Office of Administrative Hearings have been misdirected to the City’s General Fund.


Lower the Special Tree threshold from 44” circumference to 25” circumference. As we reported last year, despite its robust regulatory environment, DC continues to lose tree canopy. Lowering the circumference limit for Special Trees will in effect protect more trees and slow canopy loss.


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


Create a new City-led working group to establish oversight and management plans for DC’s natural woodlands and protect forest health. To find a forest patch near you check out the Urban Forest Patch Viewer[4]


Protect environmentally sensitive open spaces and forest patches from being developed by working with the DC Council, District agencies, and private landowners to identify greenspace that could be conserved in easements to further climate resilience and community access.


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.

[4]Citation: Sonti, N; Baker, M; Alonzo, M. 2023. Urban forest patch viewer. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. (13 March 2023).


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:

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

Office of the Mayor

Office of Planning

Office of Zoning


General Services Administration

National Park Service

USDA Forest Service


American University

The Catholic University of America

Gallaudet University

Georgetown University

George Washington University

Howard University

University of DC

11th Street Bridge Project

Anacostia Coordinating Council

Anacostia Waterfront Trust

Anacostia Watershed Society

Arbor Day Foundation

Baltimore Tree Trust

Building Bridges Across the River

Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdioceses of Washington

Chesapeake Bay Trust

Chesapeake Conservancy

City of College Park

City of Hyattsville

City of Mount Rainier

City of Takoma Park

DC Environmental Network

DC Greens

Fairfax County

Friends of Oxon Run

Groundwater Anacostia

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake

Joe's Movement Emporium

Laudato Trees


Montgomery County

Mount Olivet Cemetery

National Capital Planning Commission

National Links Trust

Nature Sacred

Potomac Electric Power Company

Prince George’s County

Sustainable DC Partners

The Nature Conservancy

Trees for Capitol Hill

Trees for Georgetown

Urban Adventure Squad

Washington Parks and People

Ward 8 Woods