Free tree applications open for New Yorkers with waterfront land

NEW YORK STATE (WETM) — New York property owners can apply for free trees to help protect waterway banks on their land.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) opened applications for its Buffer in a Bag program on March 1. This program allows people who own land that borders a stream, river, or lake to apply for a free bag of 25 tree and shrub seedlings. Planting these seedlings near the water will help stabilize the banks, protect the water quality, and improve wildlife habitats.

“Planting along streams creates woodland buffers that are critically important for keeping soil in place, slowing floodwaters, intercepting pollution, and providing food and shelter for wildlife,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Buffer in a Bag participants are helping to advance New York State’s efforts to achieve our statewide 25 million tree planting commitment and reforest riparian areas, making these areas more resilient to severe weather impacts.”

People must own public or private land in New York State that borders a stream, river, or lake for at least 50 feet to be eligible for the Buffer in a Bag program. The DEC encourages previous recipients of tree bags to reapply so they can keep building up the buffers along their banks. Each applicant is eligible for one bag, and there are a total of 250 bags available statewide. Recipients will be chosen on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications are available on the DEC’s website and will close at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, or when the bags run out, whichever comes first.

Landowners who are selected for this program must follow some requirements set by the DEC. People who receive trees must have someone at the delivery location when they are delivered, and this date will be determined sometime in April. All of the seedlings need to be planted within a floodplain or 300 feet of a stream, and no roads, drainage ditches, stormwater ponds, or other structures can be in between the planting area and the body of water.

Tree recipients must agree to care for the seedlings until they are well-established and follow up with the DEC. It will take a few years for the seedlings to establish themselves, and landowners should care for them on at least a weekly basis through the seedlings’ first summer. Buffer in a Bag participants will need to send the DEC pictures of the area the seedlings were planted in right after planting them and again in five years with information on their condition.

More information about the Buffer in a Bag program and guidance for planting trees can be found on the DEC’s website.

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