DC’s Urban Forest

Trees help with reduction of storm water and watershed issues, heating and cooling of areas (e.g. the urban heat island effect), improve the quality of the air and the overall aesthetics of the environment.

The District of Columbia has addressed a study that suggested a decline in the District’s tree canopy by offering several programs for its citizens to become involved in the re-planting of its neighborhoods. Some of these programs include a Water-by-Cycle program, which uses bikes to water trees in difficult to navigate areas, a Summer Crew program, which takes 10 high school students every summer to weed, water and mulch trees in the hopes of improving their chances of survival in the critical early stages of growth. As a result of the effort since 2002 the district has installed 350,000 square feet of green roofs.

DDOT Urban Forestry Administration has been doing great work in tracking its progress to restore the District’s urban tree canopy. They recently won a GIS award from ESRI for their use of the the ArcGIS platform to improve street tree management.

Recently, New York City has taken on an initiative, MillionTrees NYC, to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs over the next decade. MillionTrees NYC is a public-private program aimed at increasing NYC’s urban forest by 20% so that the residents may benefit from the environmental impacts that trees provide.

The District and New York City are not alone in this initiative. Americanforest.org lists the 10 Best Cities for urban forests as: Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, Washington, D.C.

These initiatives are important because urban forests are critical to the impact of our environment. What are steps your city is taking to improve its urban forest and how are you helping?

Narom Lous is a civil engineering graduate of the Florida State University. He is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers’ Environmental Special Interest Group.

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