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When the first U.S. Arbor Day celebrations started in Nebraska in 1872, the state’s settlers noted the need for trees to protect from the hot sun, as a windbreak to keep soil in place, and resources such as building materials.  It was estimated that 1 million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day April 10, 1872.

More than 150 years later, Arbor Day is now celebrated nationwide, generally on the last Friday of the month (although some states commemorate the importance of planting trees more in line with the best weather to plant trees).  

Even with the modern technology that wasn’t available in 1872, trees are important to sustaining healthy and thriving land, communities and people.

According to a June 2021 NPR article, trees keep urban neighborhoods cooler, help capture stormwater runoff, remove carbon dioxide from the air, help in making air conditioning bills manageable and protect lives – particularly during major heat waves.

The NPR article, “Bringing Back Trees To ‘Forest City’s’ Redlined Areas Helps Residents and The Climate,” notes that research shows low-income neighborhoods generally have less trees than wealthier areas.

American Forests’ Tree Equity Score examines tree coverage across U.S. cities, and allows for website guests to do the same by typing in a particular area, checking out the interactive maps, and breaking down the statistics.  Much of the data shows disparities in trees in wealthy and low-income neighborhoods.

“A map of tree cover in any city in the United States is too often a map of race and income. This is unacceptable. Trees are critical infrastructure that every person in every neighborhood deserves. Trees can help address damaging environmental inequities like air pollution,” the website declares.

While American Forests celebrated the District as one of the U.S. cities with the best equity in tree canopy coverage in June 2021 — giving the nation’s capital a 91 out of 100 – there’s still work to be done.

Upon checking out the website,, Anacostia has a score of 64 out of 100, while Georgetown has a 90 out of 100, and Glover Park boasts a perfect score.

The District’s numbers in tree coverage by neighborhood are certainly not as disparate as other cities. 

In 2021, nationwide wealthier neighborhoods had 65% more tree coverage compared to lower-income areas.

As this is the nation’s capital, the District should continue to lead the way in ensuring neighborhoods have equal access to tree canopy, which can in turn, help residents manage expensive air-conditioning bills and stay healthy and cool during the hot, humid D.C. summer.

The goal should be to close the gap even more.  

This Arbor Day, check out the trees in your area, take in their beauty, and then go over to to learn your equity score. If there’s improvement needed – be the person to ignite the change. 

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