D.C. Earns Another B- Grade On Sixth Annual Tree Report Card

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Record gains in tree planting offset by tree protection shortfalls.

The Tree Report Card continues to function as intended – tracking progress toward meeting the District’s goal of achieving 40 percent canopy by the year 2032.

Casey Trees’ Tree Report Card, the only independent assessment of D.C.’s trees on both public and private lands, gives the nation’s capital a B- for 2013. Despite advancements, including a reported 10,232 total trees being planted collectively by individuals and groups across the District, overall performance was thwarted — for a third straight year — by shortcomings in tree protection.

The overall grade was brought down by the impact of the Urban Forest Preservation Act (UFPA) — landmark legislation when passed in 2002. While record-keeping for Special Tree removal (trees 55 inches and circumference or greater) has improved, there still are no mechanisms in place to determine if trees planted to replace them are surviving for the long term. Only if trees live until maturity can the lost tree canopy be offset.

“The Tree Report Card continues to function as intended – tracking progress toward meeting the District’s goal of achieving 40 percent canopy by the year 2032,” said Casey Trees Executive Director Mark Buscaino. “Tree planting once again is at record-high levels due in large measure to the great work of the Urban Forestry Administration. Tree Protection, however, remains deficient because there are no systems in place to track the survival of replacement trees. We sincerely hope the District will address this critical deficiency.”

Recommendations put forth by the Tree Report Card include strengthening the UFPA by mandating survival checks for replacement trees, adjusting the fee structure — 11 years out of date — to account for inflation, and; to redirect most Tree Fund expenditures to support planting trees on private lots.

The argument for more trees to be planted on private residential property is where the theme for this year’s Tree Report Card — “Private Action for Private Good” — comes from. When trees are added to private lots, they get more of what they need but often do not get in cities: soil. Greater soil volumes lead to larger, healthier and longer-lived trees. Property owners are also more likely to water trees planted on their land leading to higher overall survival rates.

Since its first publication on Arbor Day in 2009, the Tree Report Card has given the District an overall grade for tree-related activities performed the previous year on public and private lands located in D.C. This grade is based on the average of four key performance metrics — Tree Coverage (A-), Health (B-), Planting (A+) and Protection (D-).

The 2013 Tree Report Card and those from previous years may be viewed in their entirety at caseytrees.org/treereportcard.

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Casey Manning
Casey Trees
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