NY's Buffer in a Bag Gives Free Trees to Protect Tributaries

Riparian buffers help protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat. Photo courtesy of the NYS DEC.

Do you own property along a waterway in New York? Through the “Buffer in a Bag” initiative, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYS DEC) Trees for Tribs Program and the NYS Tree Nursery will provide landowners with a free bag of 25 bare-root native trees and shrubs to enhance streamside areas of property. Riparian buffers – the term used to describe these vegetated shoreline zones – are vital to water quality. They allow stormwater to settle out before entering tributaries, which reduces pollution and sedimentation. They also provide wildlife habitat, prevent erosion, and increase the land’s ability to retain floodwaters.

Anyone who owns or manages at least 50 feet of land along a stream or waterbody in New York State is eligible to receive a free Buffer in Bag. Properties with 50 to 99 feet of shoreland are eligible for one bag, and properties with 100 or more feet may apply for two bags. Applicants must provide photos and information indicating where the trees will be planted. There is a limited supply and recipients are selected first-come, first-served, so sign up today! Not sure if your site fits this criteria? Contact the Trees for Tribs program by calling (518) 402-9405 or emailing treesfortribs@ dec.ny.gov.

Landowners or interested groups should apply for Buffer in a Bag (PDF)by3 PM on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Please email your completed application to treesfortribs@ dec.ny.gov. Applications can also be mailed to:

Attn: Trees for Tribs Coordinator
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-4250

Recipients of the trees and shrubs will be required to submit a progress report and pictures on the buffer's growth in roughly five years. Plants will be available in late April or early May, and must be planted or put into cold storage within one day of receipt. Not a landowner, but still interested in supporting reforestation in New York? You can donate to support this initiative at the National Heritage Trust. You can also purchase your own native trees at the Saratoga Tree Nursery’s spring seedling sale, which is held through May 9. More than 40 species of native trees and shrubs are available at low cost. Several species are already low in stock, so be sure to order by phone for the most up-to-date information!

You can place your orders by calling (518) 587-1120 Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM.  For more information on the seedling sale, visit the New York State DEC website