FONTT Presentation to City Council, June 1, 2022


Tonight, we would like to introduce Friends of Native Trees in Takoma to you, or FONTT as we call it for short.  We are also pleased to show you the native tree selection guide that we have produced.

We have one main message to deliver: that FONTT would like to work with the Council and City to achieve the Council’s three urban forest goals.

  1. Increase the tree canopy in neighborhoods with less coverage
  2. No net loss of the tree canopy, and 
  3. Increase biodiversity.

Introduction to FONTT:

We are the same residents who have been making public comments to the Council about native trees since 2019. 

We are pleased that the Council incorporated our contributions in its biodiversity goal and in the paragraphs in the revised Tree Ordinance concerning the City Tree Species List and the Annual Urban Forest Manager Report.

What’s new about our group is our name, our website (, and that we have produced a tangible output, the Takoma Park Native Tree Selection Guide.

FONTT currently has 41 members living in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Introduction to the Takoma Park Native Tree Selection Guide:

Our guide comes in two versions, digital and print.

The digital version is available for free on our website and from there, can be printed out.

The print version is for sale at the Takoma Park – Silver Spring Coop and the Audubon Naturalist Society Bookshop.  FONTT makes no profit from the guide, and in fact has come nowhere close to breaking even so far.


The first page explains our two goals in writing this guide. 

First, we want to motivate people to plant native trees by raising awareness about why native trees are important.

Second, we also want to help people select an appropriate native tree for their yard.   Motivation isn’t enough.  People need to know how to take the next steps toward planting a native tree.

Pages 2 through 6 explain why planting native trees is important.

Non-native trees provide lots of benefits.  Native trees provide all those benefits plus they are better at protecting biodiversity.

Pages 7 through 10 explain in five steps how people can select a native tree that is appropriate for their yard or wherever they intend to plant a native tree. 

We firmly believe that it’s not enough to convince people to plant native trees.  You have to show people what the next steps are. 

Pages 11 through 15 give information on 69 species of native trees, all of which are on the City’s Approved Tree Species List.

In the digital version of the guide, you can click on the species name and be taken to more detailed information about the tree from a reliable source.

If you look on the back cover, you will see that three professors from the University of Maryland reviewed the guide.

In addition, Dr. Burghardt also sent a two-page email to us and the Urban Forest Manager, Marty Frye, in response to some concerns that Marty had.  Dr. Burghardt’s main message was that,

“this list is based on the best available science and should provide an important tool and educational opportunity for the residents of Takoma Park.”

Dr. Burghardt’s comment is important.  Marty, although he has complimented our work, has declined to put a link to it on the City’s site.  He says he has a different opinion about how to use the scientific data.

We want to thank Marty for his thoughtful review of the guide and his suggestions, and especially for the time he has taken.  We still maintain that the simple insertion of a hyperlink would provide helpful and scientifically supported information for city residents who are bound by the permit process to purchase replacement trees.


The Urban Forest Manager has produced a good list of tree species approved as replacement trees under a tree removal permit.  Takoma Park Tree Species List.

However, this document does not try to motivate people to plant native trees.  It also doesn’t explain in simple, practical terms how to go about selecting the right native tree for one’s yard.  That’s not the list’s purpose and that’s not what it does.

We said this in comments to the Council last July, and we discussed it in meetings with the City Manager and the Urban Forest Manager in August and September. 

Our take-away from these meetings was that the City did not have staff with the available time necessary to produce the kind of educational document that we envisioned. 

Therefore, we proposed in October that our group would produce a native tree selection guide.

The six authors devoted hundreds of hours between October and April to writing the guide.  Now, as a result, we have a tool to help get residents to plant native trees.


That brings us back to our main message for tonight: that FONTT would like to collaborate with the Council and City to achieve the three urban forest goals.

One of the overarching principles that the Council set or for urban forest management in the Council’s 2022 Resolution was,

“emphasis on expanding resident collaboration and outreach, education, and engagement.”

The Council and the City have many platforms for outreach and education: blogs, posts on listservs, Facebook, Twitter, and in-person events to name the most obvious ones. 

Councilmembers and the Mayor have already used those platforms to collaborate with FONTT: 

  • Councilmember Kovar posted a description of our guide on his weekly blog. 
  • Councilmember Searcy retweeted our tweet about FONTT’s participation in the Coop’s Earth Day Celebration. 
  • The Urban Forest Manager invited us to participate in the Arbor Day Celebration, where we had the opportunity to talk about our guide.
  • And of course, the Mayor has scheduled this time for us to speak tonight.

Can we continue to collaborate like this, in line with the overarching principal of collaboration that the Council has established for urban forest management?  

There are many ways that we could do this.

We’d like to get a hyperlink to our guide on the City’s website, as we previously described.

We’d also appreciate getting visibility through other City media outlets:

  • a blog post about the guide on the City’s Welcome page,
  •  a post on the City’s Facebook page,
  • a link in the Takoma Insider, and
  • an article or advertisement in the Takoma Newsletter.  

We look forward to collaborating on additional plans for outreach, education, and engagement as the City prepares the Urban Forest Plan.

In short, we look forward to working with you to make progress on the Council’s urban forest goals.

Thank you. 

Presented by Diane Ives, Larry Lempert, and Lizz Kleemeier

City of Takoma Park MD City Council meeting

June 1, 2022

Listen to the presentation and the Mayors’ and Councilmembers’ responses starting at 31 minutes; 50 seconds