- The Washington, DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced it will conduct its first federal census of the city’s urban forest in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service.
- DC’s Urban Forestry Division will work with the SavATree Consulting Group to inventory trees on public, private and federal lands in one summer, which represents an accelerated schedule. The city is also the first to fully fund the census, known as the Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis (UFIA) program.
- "Mayor [Muriel] Bowser is committed to protecting and enhancing the environment and this initiative is a tremendous opportunity that will help us better understand and monitor our overall forest resources," DDOT Director Jeff Marootian said in a statement.
Urban forests have many benefits for cities, including helping to reduce air pollution, cool temperatures in neighborhoods and help retain stormwater. In a study released earlier this year, the Forest Service said it is imperative for urban forests to grow as cities also grow in size, with land in urban environments set to more than double between 2010 and 2060. If this census leads DC officials to the conclusion that they need to plant more trees, or reveals trends in tree loss or pests that need to be removed, benefits could be significant.
Another potentially impactful aspect of this scheme is its emphasis on working with DC residents who have trees on their property, in addition to the smorgasbord of government agencies and private companies that call the nation’s capital home. DDOT said arborists will contact property owners for permission to access their land — which is given voluntarily — and protect any data collected. Citizens’ participation play a significant role, although as with any city data that is collected, it will be key to protect it and ensure it is not misused.
DC is in the midst of something of a building boom, with new projects coming online on its waterfront near the Potomac River and a new soccer stadium set to open for play next month in the same neighborhood. But the new construction will need to be balanced with a need to protect the environment, and this survey should help city officials get a sense of where they are falling short and where the tree canopy is healthy.