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Introducing Legislation to Create New Office to Manage and Conserve DC Forest Land

The bill will transform now DC maintains its 500 acres of forested land, spearhead community partnerships, and launch a strategic vision for conservation in the District.

Ward 4 Councilmember and Chair of the Council Committee on Facilities and Family Services Janeese Lewis George introduced legislation to establish a new office to overhaul how the District manages and conserves its approximately 500 acres of forest land. The bill is co-introduced by a supermajority of Councilmembers and with support from the District’s leading conservation organizations.

“Across DC, invasive plants are overtaking our natural forest areas and making our parks less accessible, less safe, and less sustainable,” said Councilmember Lewis George. “This bill establishes an office that has the specialized training, sustained resources, and focused mission to conserve our forest land so it can benefit the people of DC.”

Currently, DGS has grounds maintenance responsibilities for District-owned property and is responsible for these forests alongside DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division. However, in practice, our agencies lack the capacity to properly and consistently manage forest patches, which leads to many forest areas being left unmanaged. As a result, parks often become consumed by invasive plants and vines that block out the public, limit the natural regeneration of the forest, and compromise the safety and usability of these areas.

The Office of Natural Area Conservation Establishment Act of 2023 would:

  • Establish the Office of Natural Area Conservation within DOEE to promote native plants through integrated pest management; coordinate with NPS to supplement management of their land; encourage activation of forest areas through trails and signage; coordinate trash removal from parks with other agencies; and monitor and report on the state of DC’s forested natural areas.
  • Develop a long-term plan for responding to invasive plants in District-owned forested natural areas, including assessing the need for conservation easements to permanently protect these areas and releasing recommendations for improving coordination with other District agencies.
  • Coordinate volunteer engagement in conservation efforts, including creating an “Adopt a Forest Patch” stewardship program and providing technical assistance, tools, and small grants for residents and community organizations.

“During our citywide summer readiness tours, I saw first hand how the District’s inadequate management of forested areas adversely impacts the parks and rec centers that DC residents depend on. This bill addresses a critical gap in how the District manages some of its most important facilities,” added the Councilmember.

The bill is co-introduced by Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Robert White, Matthew Frumin, Zachary Parker, Anita Bonds, Christina Henderson, Brooke Pinto, and Kenyan McDuffie. This list includes every member of the Council’s Committee Facilities and Family Services.

“Healthy forests improve air quality, lower temperatures, reduce pollution, sustain wildlife, offer a respite from urban life, and provide invaluable recreation opportunities for residents. As a city, we need to be all in on conservation — and to not let our forests and parks fall into neglect.” shared Councilmember Lewis George.

This bill is supported by leading conservation groups in the District and was developed in consultation with them: Anacostia Parks & Community Collaborative (APACC), Casey Trees, DC Environmental Network, Langdon Park Forest Stewards, Rock Creek Conservancy, Shepherd Park Weed Warriors, Ward 8 Woods, and Washington Parks & People.