Ward 8 Woods staff, Board members and volunteers use their expertise and connections to advocate for policies that heal the land and empower people. Our efforts center on three issue areas: parks and planning, local environmental laws, and defending our tree canopy.

Parks and Planning

Much of the work of Ward 8 Woods is made necessary by neglect and mismanagement of public lands by the National Park Service and DC government. Rarely, if ever, have the responsible agencies found or received the resources needed for basic park maintenance, let alone restoration or public programs. At times, their words and actions have revealed indifference and victim-blaming towards Ward 8 residents. 

Ward 8 Woods is an informed local voice advocating for parks that are healthy, beautiful, and inviting for residents and visitors alike. We lobby Congress and the DC Council for more park funding, and we press agency staff to be responsive to resident input. We have also persistently sought approval and funding for the construction of hiking trails and reforestation projects. Ward 8 has seen no new trail construction since the early 1990s.

2024 Advocacy Priorities

Environmental Policy

Ward 8 Woods works in coalition with other local advocates to press for a truly green city that supports the health and wellbeing of residents while doing its part to eliminate plastic pollution, restore the Chesapeake Bay, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigates the worst effects of the climate crisis. 

One of our two main waterways, the Anacostia, despite improvements, remains one of only two rivers in the United States that the EPA has deemed “impaired by trash.” Legislation, helpful in theory, has fallen short in practice. Bans on styrofoam, plastic straws, and unrequested condiment packets are on the books but not consistently observed or enforced. Recent trends have added waves of face masks, cannabis containers, and food delivery packaging to the waste stream. DC government and business owners must do more to reduce the unmanageable and unsustainable amount of waste we’re generating. 

Another inadequate trash-mitigation measure, the five-cent grocery bag fee in effect since 2010, falls hardest on East of the River residents, who can least afford it, as few have switched to reusable bags. Despite the fee, bags and other single-use plastics still foul the ward’s streets, parks, and streams. It’s time to move toward a full bag ban, as many jurisdictions have done already. 

Drink bottles make up the majority of the trash we remove, and we have the solution: Bottle deposit fees have greatly reduced litter in the 11 states that have them. The powerful beverage, plastics, and oil industry lobbies have quashed past efforts to create one in DC, but we hope to finally change that: Ward 8 Woods is a proud member of the 3RC for DC coalition pushing for a bottle bill. 

Parks east of the river continue to be used as illegal dumping grounds for construction materials, furniture, electronics, car parts and household items. Tires are a particular problem, because disposing of them appropriately is expensive and inconvenient. Few who evade the rules by dumping illegally are caught or punished, while cleaning up after them often falls to Ward 8 Woods and other volunteers. We routinely push for more government resources for waste-reduction education, monitoring and enforcement. 

Recycling rates in DC are depressingly low, and most of DC’s trash is burned at an incinerator in Lorton, Virginia. This facility is the region’s single worst source point for air pollution, negatively affecting the health of tens of thousands of people who live nearby. We advocate for DC to shift disposal to landfills in rural Virginia as a less harmful option as we restructure our economy to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use products and improve reuse and recycling of other materials. 

Advocacy partners:

DC Environmental Network

Sierra Club DC Chapter

Energy Justice Network

3RC for DC

Defending Our Tree Canopy

More than any other part of DC, Ward 8 is dotted with privately owned, undeveloped lots that are wooded. Many have sat untended for decades, neglected by absentee real estate investors who, even though they are legally responsible to maintain their property, ignore repeated outreach from Ward 8 Woods, defy citations from the District, and fail to pay property taxes. But now that property values are up and developers are interested, these same owners are rushing to clear their land of trees to make way for townhouses and apartment buildings. 

Under DC’s tree protection laws, landowners are required to obtain permits before cutting trees, and pay significant fees to cut any designated Special Trees, defined as having a trunk circumference greater than 45 inches. These fees go into a fund for planting of new trees. Even larger “Heritage Trees,” having trunk circumferences of more than 100 inches, must be either preserved or relocated.   

But given the financial incentive to develop, such fees are not enough to stop deforestation. In 2023, DC’s Department of Urban Forestry approved the removal of 293 special trees in Ward 8. Details of tree cutting permits are easily viewed online

DC’s Tree protection rules must be amended to increase fees and require Zoning Board approval before DDOT issues land-clearing permits. This would prevent “speculative deforestation” for development projects whose construction is still a long way off or may never materialize.  Funds from tree cutting permits should be used to purchase not just trees, but land  –  privately owned wooded areas  – and set them aside as public parkland, before the window of opportunity to set aside green spaces closes. 

Advocacy partners:

Casey Trees

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