Primer on Urban Forestry & Tree Bill!
By Mary Lightle, Tree Canopy Enthusiast
It has been a month since I strolled into the Urban Forestry Brief organized and hosted by the DC Environmental Network with Councilmember Phil Mendelson and Mark Buscaino of Casey Trees. I was curious, how did the District intend to increase the urban canopy? This represented a notion that would exemplify to the rest of the country that the built environment and urban forests will coexist.
“D.C. has a rich history of trees,” expressed Buscaino. “And I think all of us here are a testament to the fact that we really need to hold on to that history…”
The room was full of stakeholders – residents, environmental organizations, arborists, Casey Trees volunteers, and other District employees – sitting shoulder to shoulder listening to Councilmember Mendelson speak on behalf of the Urban Forestry Administration Reorganization Act of 2011. His bill cites amendments to the Urban Forest Preservation Act (UFPA) of 2002 and transfers the Urban Forestry Administration from the DDOT to the DDOE. He emphasized, “The goal here is the macro, not the micro.” When it comes to expanding the District’s current 35% canopy cover to 40% by 2035, there isn’t time to necessarily be concerned about preserving individual trees. “Simplicity, in any kind of legislation, is key,” said Buscaino.
Buscaino had his own recommended actions about the macro goal. He refreshingly described with candor and laconic humor that the size limit for trees covered by the UFPA, currently 55 inches, needed to be reduced and was set by a man hugging a tree at breast height. I had to watch the briefing video again to make sure I heard correctly. View Mark Buscaino’s portion of the brief for yourself.
Decreasing the average tree circumference to the recommended 29 inches would allow for trees to grow closer together with a more intact canopy. A large gap in the canopy would occur if a tree of 55 inches were removed. An increased tree canopy would not only sequester more carbon emissions, but it would also slow stormwater with foliage and root systems, shade streets, regulate urban heat island temperatures, and improve aesthetics.
The macro is not only about the District either; it is about the global commons. Where the wind blows, emissions are sure to go. What kind of neighbor do you want D.C. to be? Take your part in being a stakeholder on Wednesday, December 7th, at the Urban Forest Administration Reorganization Act hearing.