Despite what you may have heard, George Washington loved trees.
Our first president wanted the new nation’s capital to have a lush canopy, extensive green spaces, and tree-lined boulevards. Thanks to his vision, and that of its designer Pierre L’Enfant, Washington, D.C., still boasts more green space per capita than any other city in the United States. The tens of thousands of trees planted here in the 1800s earned D.C. one of its nicknames, the “City of Trees.”
But the city’s trees are in jeopardy. DC’s tree canopy declined to just over 35% in 2011, down from 50% in 1950. A Washington Post article chronicling this decline encouraged Betty Brown Casey, a longtime area resident, to establish Casey Trees in 2002 with the 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 only independent assessment of D.C.’s trees on both public and private lands. For 2013, the city received an overall grade of B minus. There were many positive advancements, including a reported 10,232 total trees being planted collectively by individuals and groups across the District. However, the overall grade was brought down due to the city’s inability to confirm that trees planted to replace removed Special Trees — those 55 inches or greater in circumference — actually survive to maturity. Only if trees live until maturity can the lost tree canopy be offset. (more…)