Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS)
National Park Service, Witness Tree Protection Program
During my internship with the Historic American Landscapes Survey, a division of the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, in Washington, DC, I worked on the pilot project for the Witness Tree Protection Program. The goals of the Program were to identify and document twenty-four historically and biologically noteworthy trees, or groups of trees, planted on NPS property throughout the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Prior to this summer’s work, studies had documented trees for either their historical or biological value but very few attempted a comprehensive investigation into both factors. In keeping with the dual focus of the Project my primary tasks were to 1) create a field data form on which to record physical characteristics such as height, trunk diameter, and health for all of the twenty-four specimen trees and 2) write short, three to six page reports detailing both the historical and biological significance of each. Examples of these trees include the immense deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara) planted in the west service court at Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, the largest tree of its species located in the United States, and an extremely rare elm zelkova tree (Zelkova carpinifolia) located on the grounds of Union Square on the National Mall, one of the last specimens remaining from the plantings of the original U.S. Botanic Gardens. I will be continuing this work throughout the 2006-2007 academic year, and in the spring, the NPS plans to open a traveling exhibition on the Witness Tree Protection Program utilizing excerpts of my written reports and enlargements of the archival photographs taken of the trees by HALS photographers. This exhibition will be funded in large part through a generous grant from the Casey Trees Endowment Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, enhancement and protection of Washington D.C.’s tree canopy. Hopefully this exhibition will encourage similar projects throughout the nation, as the Witness Tree Protection Program affords an excellent opportunity for historic preservation professionals and natural resource practitioners to work with and learn from one another.