Ever since the Washington Post ran an article about the steady decline of D.C.’s trees, Casey Trees has been dedicated to bringing them back. Casey Trees was established in 2002, its mission to “restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of the Nation’s Capital.” With Casey Trees’ encouragement, the city set a 40% canopy goal by 2035.
In order to call attention to their mission, Casey Trees issues an annual Tree Report Card, the country’s only independent assessment of a city’s trees on both public and private lands. Following is the city’s 2013 report card, item by item. You can decide for yourself whether this report card is worthy of hanging on the refrigerator.
Tree Coverage: A-
(2012 grade: A-)
This grade is based on how close D.C. is getting to its 40% goal. In 2011, the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab used satellite images to estimate the District’s canopy at 36 percent, which translates into an A- grade (36/40 = 90 percent) for Tree Coverage.
Tree Health: B-
(2012 grade: B-)
Coverage doesn’t mean much if all the trees are sick or susceptible to diseases and parasites. Looking at 201 randomly selected plots, Casey Trees estimated that about 82.4% of the Capital’s 2.5 million trees are in “Good” or “Excellent” condition.
Tree Planting: A+
(2012 grade: A+)
This is the high point of the report card: For the fourth straight year, groups planted above the target of 8,600 trees — 10,232 total — resulting in a grade of A+.
Tree Protection: D-
(2012 grade: F)
Yikes. The Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002 discourages the removal of special trees by charging a fee if someone wants to remove one. Unfortunately, the fee may not be high enough to discourage the removal of these trees, and the city has no procedures in place to insure that replacement trees survive. (Still, it’s slightly better than last year’s grade.)
Overall Grade: B-
Not bad! Washington, D.C. is steadily getting its trees back. But there’s one subject it needs a lot of work in. If the city wants to ensure the continuing health of its tree canopy, it needs to get better at protecting old trees and making sure the young ones survive. To find out how you can help, check out the Casey Trees website.