The District of Columbia’s extensive efforts to expand and protect its tree canopy have not gone unnoticed; conservation organization American Forests today named the District one of the 10 best US cities for urban forests along with Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento and Seattle.
WASHINGTON, DC – The District of Columbia’s extensive efforts to expand and protect its tree canopy have not gone unnoticed; conservation organization American Forests today named the District one of the 10 best US cities for urban forests along with Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento and Seattle.
The project, funded by the US Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program, found that while many cities are working to improve their green infrastructure, top-ranked cities, like Washington, have made prolonged investments in the health of their urban forest, as well as benefited from active nonprofit and community participation in improving and maintaining the city’s environmental resources.
“The District has a long history of investing in and maintaining open space and tree canopy, with Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative setting a comprehensive path forward over the next 20 years,” said District of Columbia State Forester Monica Lear, PhD “It is rewarding to know that American Forests recognizes how serious our commitment is to care for our green space.”
The District Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) stands on the forefront of this effort, with teams of certified arborists utilizing the latest in database and analysis technologies to manage each District street tree so it maximize benefits while minimizing risk. To that end, UFA:
- Responded to over 14,700 service requests from citizens in fiscal year 2012, generating more than 22,000 work orders for planting, pruning, and removal work.
- Is currently planting over 7,000 street trees this year, comprising 150 different species and varieties, throughout all 8 wards of the District. UFA has planted nearly 46,000 trees on DC public space since 2005.
- Responded to over 5,000 storm-related service requests last year. UFA manages 24 hour a day emergency and storm response to keep the city’s roads, sidewalks, and trails clear for travel.
- Removed over 3 acres of impervious surfaces to create new green space near streets and schools. UFA has also piloted new pervious paving technologies that allow trees and sidewalks to harmoniously coexist.
- Has helped build the capacity of local non-profit and community partners through US Forest Service grant programs that have helped increase tree canopy on under utilized public space, engage residents, and train some of the District’s most chronically under-employed residents for careers improving and managing urban green spaces.
One of the reasons American Forests undertook this project, according to Scott Steen, CEO and member of the judging panel, is to showcase the tangible value that urban forests provide to cities and their residents, including economic, aesthetic, social and physical well-being. In a press release, American Forests said “Washington, DC recognizes that trees don’t just provide aesthetic value, they also help in a number of other ways, including increasing property values, reducing energy costs and lowering medical costs by improving human health. For example, various studies have shown a correlation between trees and lower rates of crime, reduced levels of stress and lower body mass. Washington’s trees also provide $3.6 billion in structural value to the city. The $2.6 million they save in energy costs each year reduce carbon emissions by $96,000 per year.”
American Forests worked with a panel of urban forest experts from a broad range of scientific and urban resources disciplines to identify the best urban forests from the 50 most populous US cities. The panel, which included technical advisors from the US Forest Service, looked at independent data and American Forests’ survey responses from local urban forest professionals and community forestry nonprofits.
To learn more about the 10 best cities for urban forests, visit American Forests’ website at www.americanforests.org/10bestcities .
For more information about UFA please visit the DDOT website at ddot.dc.gov/trees.