Casey Trees is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit committed to restoring, enhancing and protecting the tree canopy of our nation’s capital. We pursue our mission through community action, education, and research.

Casey Trees’ Tree Report Card measures the quantity and condition of D.C.’s trees and the collective efforts of all groups and individuals working to achieve the District’s 40 percent tree canopy goal. It is based on data from various sources, including federal, state and private groups.


Previous Years' Grades


Executive Summary

Ten years ago we launched our Tree Report Card (TRC) - Casey Trees’ independent evaluation of D.C.’s trees. We felt that if we provided basic information on the state of D.C.’s tree canopy to the public, elected officials and the Administration each year, we could spark action to improve it.

The TRC has largely succeeded as envisioned and two milestones stand out in particular. First is the city’s adoption of a 40 percent Tree Canopy Goal, embraced now by three successive Mayors: Fenty, Gray, and Bowser. Second is the passage of the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016. The Act strengthened tree protections by increasing fees and fines for tree removal as well as created a permanently protected class of “heritage” trees.

The city’s development boom is slowly eliminating the one thing trees cannot live without - soil.

But while progress has been impressive, a dark cloud lies ahead. The city’s development boom is slowly eliminating the one thing trees cannot live without - soil. A total of 42 percent of the city’s land is covered by impervious surfaces such as asphalt and rooftops - greater than the tree canopy goal itself.

Therefore, I encourage you to get involved. Join us at a tree planting, become a supporting member or enroll in our volunteer pruning corps. No matter how you engage, you will help us keep Washington, D.C. the “City of Trees” for generations to come.


Spotlight: Olmsted Greenway

While Frederick Law Olmsted is most famous for his design of New York’s Central Park, he also worked in D.C., designing over 19 miles of flowering tree-filled roadways. Together with the D.C. Office of Planning, Casey Trees will begin a multi-year replanting effort along Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, Texas, Minnesota and Alabama Avenues to revitalize Olmsted’s original vision.

This project will not only produce the environmental benefits that trees provide, but it will also beautify these avenues with overhanging canopies and seasonal flower displays contributing to a more livable and walkable city.

Together with the D.C. Office of Planning, Casey Trees will begin a multi-year replanting effort to revitalize Olmsted’s vision.

Threat: Impervious Surface

Since 2000, D.C. has grown by 100,000 residents . While positive, an unintended result has been the addition of asphalt and concrete - known as impervious surfaces.

Impervious surfaces make the city hotter, more flood-prone and a less desirable place to live - and of course more concrete means fewer trees.

To provide balance, we recommend that the District establish a maximum impervious surface percentage.

The good news is that there are new technologies that allow for trees to grow around impervious surfaces, and programs that incentivize the removal of concrete and asphalt. But these mechanisms are not a comprehensive approach.

An impervious surface maximum percentage will guide future development, ensuring that trees and green spaces are not eliminated as the city continues to grow.

Before and After of homeowner's use of pervious surface. Photo Credit: Department of Energy & Environment.

Metrics Explained


The Tree Report Card rates Washington D.C.’s urban forest based on four metrics: Tree Coverage, Tree Health, Tree Planting and Tree Protection. Each metric is assigned a numeric score and grade. An overall grade is then determined by averaging the individual metrics. A detailed explanation of grading can be found in the appendix below.


Tree Coverage

The District’s current canopy coverage is 38 percent resulting in an A grade. This reflects a 2 percent increase from 2015.

Read More


Tree Health

Every five years, Casey Trees collects data from 201 city-wide sample land plots. Results from our 2015 survey were essentially identical to 2010, with 83 percent of D.C.’s 2.4 million trees in good to excellent condition, resulting in a B- grade for Tree Health.


Tree Planting

In the past decade, tree planting on both public and private lands has significantly increased through expanded partnerships.

For the city to achieve 40 percent canopy by 2032, at least 10,648 trees must be planted each year for the next 15 years. In 2017, 12,441 trees were collectively planted throughout D.C., surpassing the yearly goal and resulting in an A+ grade for Tree Planting.


Tree Protection

In order to achieve the Tree Canopy Goal, planting trees year after year is not enough. We need to ensure that large, healthy trees are protected and when removed, new trees are planted in their place. Three sub-metrics are used to assess the impact of these two laws.

Tree Protection

The Tree Protection sub-metrics assesses the impact of the city’s laws to protect trees and replace them when they are removed. Specifically, the Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002, and its successor, the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016, levy fees and fines for tree removal and use those moneys to replant trees to make up for the loss in canopy. The three sub-metrics are:

1. Are the fees and fines levied keeping pace with inflation?
2. Are fees and fines being used to plant replacement trees?
3. Are trees planted as replacements surviving?

Averaging these three sub-metrics results in 95 percent, awarding the final Tree Protection an A.


While we celebrate and continue to see significant progress in the TRC metrics, much more remains to be done. There are still public and private lands that can accommodate more trees, and – more importantly – the amount of impervious surface in the city is creeping upward. Therefore, we encourage Mayor Bowser to:


Adopt a city-wide impervious surface threshold, as well as a threshold for all new developments that allow for a minimum canopy percentage based on zoning classification.


Convene an expert panel to discuss and adopt a tree canopy goal on D.C. owned parks land and have that goal adopted in the Sustainable D.C. plan.


Place conservation easements on city-owned parks and green spaces to ensure they remain green for future generations of Washingtonians.


Increase tree plantings on city-owned properties including schools, rights-of-ways, parks and other lands.


Casey Trees would like to thank the following partners making trees a priority in the city by planting, caring and protecting trees in the District as well as sharing their data to track the collective efforts:

Anacostia Waterfront Trust | District Department of Transportation: Urban Forestry Division | District Department of Parks and Recreation | D.C. Environmental Network | D.C. Office of Planning | D.C. Office of Zoning | District Department of Energy and the Environment | Groundwork Anacostia | Sustainable DC Partners | The Catholic University of America | American University | Howard University | Washington Parks and People | Gallaudet University | George Washington University | Government Services Administration | National Parks Service | Trees for Georgetown | University of D.C. | Washington Parks and People

And especially Mayor Bowser and her Team for making trees a priority in the District


Tree Coverage is a measure of a tree’s crown when viewed from above and is the way we track the progress that the District makes towards its 40 percent tree canopy by 2032 goal. The tree crown or canopy produces most of the trees overall benefits.

Tree Health encompasses trees condition, species, size, and type. This metric helps us understand how resilient the District’s trees are in terms of potential threats due to pests and diseases. It can also predict the longevity and future composition of D.C.’s trees.

Tree Planting is a count of annual tree planting numbers compared to the total number of trees that must be planted per year to achieve the city’s 40 percent canopy goal by 2032.

Tree Protection assesses the impact of the Urban Forestry Preservation Act of 2002 (UFPA) – a law intended to slow the removal of healthy trees 55 inches in circumference or greater and ensure their replacement when they are cut down. Under the Act, removal of a Special Tree requires a fee (or fine if removed illegally), and the proceeds are used for replacement plantings.

Tree Protection Sub-metric 1: Is the Urban Forestry Protection Act (UFPA) discouraging the removal of healthy special trees? With the update of the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016 (TCPAA), fees and fines for tree removal have increased. A decrease in permits granted was observed for trees with a circumference over 100” (Heritage Trees). While we cannot ensure this decrease is due solely to the TCPAA alone, it has been a huge stride in protecting larger rooted green infrastructure across the nation's capital. Given these milestones in tree protections recommended by Casey Trees in earlier report cards and the new baselines they establish, this sub-metric receives an A+ grade.

Tree Protection Sub-metric 2: Are replacement trees effectively replacing canopy removed? Periodic assessments are necessary to determine if replacement trees are replenishing lost canopy due to Special or Heritage Trees removal. For this sub-metric, we used our own tree survival study. Based on 15 years of growth, we can determine that replacement trees are not only being planted, but they're also contributing positively to the growth of the canopy, with a total of 85 percent of replacement trees surviving.

Tree Protection Submetric 3: Is the Tree Fund being administered properly? The UFPA requires that the District use the Tree Fund money—funds collected from fines and fees—to plant trees, ensuring that the removed canopy is being replaced. An examination of the last fiscal years Tree Fund receipts and disbursements show that these monies were indeed used for tree planting, resulting in an A+ grade.