D.C. tree planting underway

DDOT's Urban Forestry Administration is planting 6,400 trees across the District. It’s part of a $1.8 million dollar program.

From now until spring, DDOT crews will plant 150 different species of trees in all eight wards.

It’s a worthwhile investment, says D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.

“I think you can't be a first class, world class city unless you preserve the green space the tree canopy,” says Gray.

It’s not just aesthetically pleasing. Environmentalists point out trees provide oxygen, shade, and they serve as giant sponges during storms.

“When I look at the tree we just planted, I think 200 gallons of storm water being soaked up each year,” says D.C. Department of Environment Interim Director Keith Anderson.

Studies also show that trees, somehow, can have major social impacts such as reducing crime or improving student test scores.

“One of the key things that research is showing, is that trees are a calming effect on humans so therefore their attention is held or better,” says John Thomas, DDOT'S Urban Forestry Administration.

But after the 2010 winter storm snowmaggedon and the July derecho, D.C. residents have become very familiar with the danger and destruction caused by falling trees.

“A leading official with Pepco was over to see us yesterday and I said you know we're doing more with trees in the city but we want to make sure we're working in concert,” Gray says.

But concerns about power outages won't stop these crews from planting trees below power lines. That's because local forestry officials say they're selecting species specific to each planting location.

So in the case of overhead powerlines, they're putting in trees that only grow so tall.

“It's more of a med sized shade tree,” Thomas says. “Something that's going to achieve 35 to 45 feet in height. But not 90 feet where it's going to be above the power lines so that when it does topple over it's going to take everything with it.”