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The District will get 3,000 new trees next year as part of a goal to have planted 15,000 in total through 2016, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced today.
The Canopy 3,000 initiative, made public at American University’s inaugural “Tree Summit,” represents a private-public partnership comprised of 11 members—from the District Department of Energy and Environment to the nonprofit Casey Trees—who will decide where the flora will go, aided by $400,000 in seed funding (no pun intended) from D.C. The effort is part of a larger goal to cover 40 percent of the District with healthy canopy by 2032.
“We know that trees prevent storm water from polluting our waterways, improve air quality, and are beautiful, providing shade to our residents so they can enjoy the surrounding environment,” Bowser explained at the summit. “Looking at maps of D.C. from decades ago as compared to maps of D.C. now, we also know that we’ve lost too many trees. We are very focused [on changing that] and have to do more.”
The program’s work-group will begin meeting in the first two months of next year, when they’ll address the types of trees and methods of planting to be used across the District’s eight wards. The National Park Service, which is the single largest landholder in D.C. and a member of the canopy group, this morning committed to plant 1,000 trees in 2016. That’s timed to coincide with the service’s 100th anniversary, NPS Regional Director Bob Vogel said.
“I know I’m speaking to the choir here, but a healthy, diverse forest is important for both our two- and four-legged city residents,” he said. Green spaces “are pressure-release valves that give people room to move around, and natural refuges that protect animal and plant life.” Vogel called trees “unsung natural heroes,” in part due to the facts that their roots prevent erosion, their leaves cool the air, and their bulk isolates noise: “They truly sustain life.”
“Wow, we just got to one-third of our goal,” DOEE Director and ex-Councilmember Tommy Wells quipped after his remarks. “It feels like a telethon.”
A spokesperson for DOEE said the $400,000 in seed funding would translate into at least 1,300 trees, and potentially more if the agency can leverage that investment. Precisely when and where they eventually get put into the ground will depend on seasonal factors as well as local geographic context.
At the Tree Summit, Bowser simultaneously announced an Urban Forestry Advisory Committee to help officials plan and implement the canopy goals. “It takes a lot of groups inside and outside of government to plant and protect trees, and this advisory committee will help us do that,” the mayor said.
Given her time serving as Ward 4 councilmember and now as mayor, she confessed at one point: “I know more about trees than I ever thought I would.”
In addition to DOEE, NPS, AU, and Casey Trees, the initiative’s 11 members include the District Department of Transportation, the District Department of Parks and Recreation, Washington Parks and People, AECOM, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the D.C, Baptist Convention, and the U.S. Forest Service.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery