Tree Report Card



Casey Trees is a Washington, DC - 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 DC’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 collected from both public and private sources, including the District and Federal Governments, universities, developers, nonprofits and others.


Executive Summary

By any measure, 20 years is a long time, and that is the number of years Casey Trees has been fulfilling its mission: “To restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of our nation’s capital.” However, in the life of a tree, 20 years is just the start. In fact, most trees planted 20 years ago are in the prime of their youth, just starting to shade the ground beneath them and beautify their surrounding neighborhoods.

Our benefactor, Mrs. Betty Brown Casey, understood the timeless nature of trees. Mrs. Casey had the foresight to know that keeping Washington, DC filled with trees through droughts, windstorms, changes in administrations, road construction, and more would require the creation of a durable organization, one that would function in perpetuity. That is why she created Casey Trees.

The 2020 Tree Report Card is dedicated to the vision and generosity of Mrs. Casey and the hard work of our staff, board, and supporters. We are particularly indebted to our local partners, DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division, Department of Energy and Environment, Mayor Muriel Bowser, our elected officials, and our unflappable volunteer force. This team of champions has not only helped plant tens of thousands of trees, but just as important, they helped create and support a legal and administrative framework to ensure our collective long-term success at achieving and maintaining DC’s moniker: the City of Trees.

Thanks as always for your support!

Mark's Signature


The Tree Report Card is Casey Trees’ annual evaluation of DC's urban forest. It looks at where our successes have been over the past year and highlights where improvements can be made. This year, Casey Trees is pleased to announce that the District received an overall grade of A.

Grade Components Explained

The overall Report Card grade is an average taken across four individual metrics: Tree Coverage, Tree Health, Tree Planting, and Tree Protection. Each metric is evaluated using a standard formula, explained in detail below.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 B- B- C N/A B- B- B- B- A A A A- A

This metric measures the amount of tree canopy covering DC’s land base. Aerial imagery – both satellite and fly-over images – are used to measure the City’s tree canopy from above and track progress toward DC’s 40 percent tree canopy goal. When last measured in 2016[1], the District had 38 percent tree canopy. For this reason, Tree Coverage receives an A grade.


Calculations Explained

Existing tree canopy coverage/Tree canopy goal

38/40 = .95 or 95%

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 B B+ B+ B+ A- A- A- A- A A A A A

This metric evaluates the condition of trees across the District. For over a decade, Casey Trees conducted this tree health assessment via iTree Eco by sampling plots throughout the City. In 2019, DC switched from this method to the U.S.D.A. Forest Service’s (USFS) standard Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis (Urban FIA). Urban FIA has advantages over the old method in that it provides more robust data, is used nationwide, and produces results that can be compared across the U.S.

Unfortunately, due to a disagreement between federal agencies, the USFS could not collect data from Rock Creek Park, which is managed by the National Parks Service (NPS). The absence of data from Rock Creek Park compromises the overall study results and hinders the District’s ability to monitor and manage its natural resources.

Due to the incomplete tree inventory, we will grade tree health based on the data from the previous tree health analysis, calculated at 83%. Therefore, for this year, we will assign Tree Health a B- grade.

If the Urban FIA remains stalled next year, we will be forced to assign Tree Health an “incomplete.” Casey Trees will then consider how to obtain this important data via different methods, on our own, with our District partners.


Calculations Explained

Plots with trees in good or excellent health/
Plots surveyed

166/201 = 0.83 or 83%

people planting on a cool day
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 A+ B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B- B-

This metric compares the number of trees planted each year to the number required for the City to meet its 40% canopy goal. In total, 13,182 trees were planted by the City and its partners in 2020. While this is slightly less than what was planted in 2019, it still far exceeds the City’s annual planting target of 10,500 trees. The Tree Planting score for this year’s Tree Report Card, therefore, receives an A+ grade.

volunteers digging with shovels and a pickax

Calculations Explained

Total trees planted/tree planting goal

13,182/10,500 = 1.26 or 126%

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 B C- A+ A+ A+ A- A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ A+

This metric measures the effectiveness of the City’s laws in protecting Special and Heritage Trees. The final grade for Tree Protection, A, is based on the average of the following four sub-metrics, as follows:


Calculations Explained

Average of Submetrics

a volunteer measuring the circumference of the tree trunk

Submetric 1: Are the fees and fines levied keeping pace with inflation?
The fee to remove a Special tree, set in 2016, is $55 per inch of circumference. To keep pace with inflation, that figure should be $61 today. While this difference may seem small, it translates to an overall loss of $190,230 in fees, equivalent to 600 fewer trees planted. We therefore assign this submetric an A- grade[2]. Casey Trees will try and correct this discrepancy over the ensuing year and report our progress in next year’s Tree Report Card.

Submetric 2: Are fees and fines being used to plant replacement trees?
The Urban Forest Preservation Act requires that fees and fines collected into the Tree Fund be used to plant trees on public and private land. Moneys in the Tree Fund continue to be used as stipulated for tree planting, and none have been diverted for other purposes. We, therefore, assign this submetric an A+ grade.

Submetric 3: Are the replacement trees surviving?
Approximately ten replacement trees are planted for every Special tree removed. Our tree survival data suggest that two of those ten trees planted will grow to be at least 44 inches in circumference - the size of a Special tree. This means that, over time, replacement tree plantings are indeed replacing canopy lost. Therefore, we give this submetric an A grade.

Submetric 4: Are Heritage trees being protected or relocated as required by law?
According to City data, in 2020: 140 Heritage Trees were protected/remained in place, two were relocated, and 14 were removed with a fine paid. Because 142 of the 156 Heritage trees that could have harmed were protected, we give this submetric an A- grade.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 B- B- C N/A B- B- B- B- A A A A- A-

[1]A new study of DC’s tree canopy coverage was completed in 2020, and we anticipate the results will be released in August 2021.

[2]Total paid into the Tree Fund/total adjusted for CPI (1,726,898.15/1,917,128.39 = 90%)



Work with the National Park Service and US Forest Service to finish the Urban Forest Inventory Assessment for tree health in DC. Federal disputes should not hamper the District’s ability to obtain information critical to its understanding and management of its urban forest for the benefit of all District residents.


Amend the Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002 to clarify/specify when a Tree Preservation Plan is required during the development review process. Second, require that all Tree Preservation Plans must be reviewed and approved by the professional arborists at the Urban Forestry Division.


Provide the Urban Forestry Division’s arborists with Stop Work Order Authority so they can immediately shut down work that is damaging Special and Heritage Trees.


Expand the Urban Forest Preservation Act to include trees removed by the DC government so all trees may be protected, not just those removed by private entities.


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:

We would like to thank Mayor Bowser and her team for making trees a priority in the District, specifically:

We would also like to thank our partners at:

DC Office of Planning

DC Office of Zoning

Department of Energy and the Environment

Department of Parks and Recreation

Department of Transportation: Urban Forestry Division

District Department of General Services

Also our federal partners at:

General Services Administration

National Park Service

Anacostia Coordinating Council

Anacostia Waterfront Trust

Anacostia Watershed Society

The Catholic University of America

DC Environmental Network

Groundwater Anacostia

National Capital Planning Commission

The Nature Conservancy

Sustainable DC Partners

Trees for Capitol Hill

Trees for Georgetown

Washington Parks and People

American University

Gallaudet University

Georgetown University

George Washington University

Howard University


University of DC