2023 Buffer in a Bag update: We are no longer accepting applications for the 2023 program. Thank you for your interest!
DEC's Trees for Tribs is a statewide program that has been working to reforest New York's tributaries - small creeks and streams that flow into larger rivers and lakes - by planting trees and shrubs along these waterways. The program's goal is to create or improve riparian (streamside) buffers that decrease erosion, reduce flooding damage, improve wildlife and stream habitat, and protect water quality.
The Importance of Streamside Buffers
Vegetation, such as trees, shrubs, and grasses along waterways creates a natural buffer that protects the water and provides many benefits. An established streamside buffer:
- slows down and filters run off, preventing pollutants from getting into the water;
- intercepts and slows water from heavy rains, reducing the instances of flooding,
- shades streams, creating cooler temperature conditions to support fish species such as trout;
- holds soil in place, preventing streambanks from eroding away during heavy rains; and
- provides food and habitat for invertebrates, fish and other wildlife.
To find out more about stream buffers and their benefits, check out our stream buffer fact sheet.
Buffer in a Bag
The Buffer in a Bag program provides organizations and private landowners with free tree and shrub seedlings to help establish or improve a stream buffer on their property. Tree and shrub seedlings are provided by the Colonel William F. Fox Saratoga Memorial Tree Nursery. Applications for the 2024 program will be accepted March 1 through April 17 at 3:00 p.m.
Who is Eligible
Landowners who are the primary resident(s) of land in New York State with at least 50 feet along a stream or waterbody are eligible to receive a free bag of seedlings. Organizations or individuals with permission to plant on a given property with stream or waterbody access may also participate. Applicants are limited to one bag per property.
- Seedlings must be planted within a riparian area (along the bank of a river, creek, or stream or shore of a lake). This can include areas within a floodplain or within 300 feet of a stream. No road, structure, stormwater pond, drainage ditch, or other constructed feature should separate the planting area from the waterbody.
- Recipients must submit photos of the area after the seedlings have been planted.
- Recipients must agree to care for the seedlings for the first several years, until they are well established.
Participants will be asked to provide information on the seedlings' condition, as well as photos of the planting site, at the five-year mark. If you received a buffer-in-a-bag during the 2019 season, please e-mail photos to [email protected].
How to Apply
Beginning March 1, 2024, links to the online application form will be available on this webpage. Applications will be accepted through April 17, 2024 at 3:00 p.m.
- We strongly encourage applicants to provide an active email address so that they may receive timely communications regarding missing application information.
- 250 bags will be distributed during 2024. Recipients are selected on a first-come, first-served basis; applicants are encouraged to apply as close to March 1 as possible to increase their chances of receiving free seedlings.
If you have questions, you may email us at [email protected] or call the Trees for Tribs program at (518) 402-9405.
What is Included
Buffer in a Bag kits will be sent to selected applicants starting in late April to early May. Each bag includes 2 native tree and shrub seedlings that are well-suited to streamside conditions. This year, five of the plants in the bag will be "live stakes”, which are easier to plant and tend to have greater success rates. The seedlings are approximately 1
*Species selection is subject to changes based on availability and number of applicants.
Accepted participants will receive supporting materials including a Planting and Maintenance Guide (PDF), and planting layout instructions (PDF). Proper seedling placement and maintenance is essential for seedling survival, and these materials will help you ensure that your trees and shrubs get off to a good start. Please plant seedlings immediately upon receiving them. If seedlings cannot be planted right away, you can store them in the refrigerator or a cool basement (38 - 48°F) for up to a week, as long as roots don't dry out.
For additional tree planting guidance and resources, see our How to Plant a Tree webpage.
Hudson Estuary Trees for Tribs
The Hudson River Estuary Program supports streamside plantings in the Hudson Valley. Owners or managers of properties near streams in the Hudson Estuary Watershed may apply for assistance for planting projects.