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Trees for Tribs Frequently Asked Questions

For Landowners

For Partners

For site identification and planning

For Landowners

What is Trees for Tribs?

Trees for Tribs is a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation program that works with partner organizations and volunteers to reforest streams to improve wildlife habitat, water quality and climate resiliency. The 'Tribs', meaning tributaries, are the small streams that feed larger streams and sometimes are the biggest culprits for non-point source pollution, having negative impacts on water quality downstream.

This program focuses on all streams across New York State to make a difference for the future of our wildlife, water quality and storm resiliency.

What is a riparian buffer?

Trees for Tribs' mission is to plant trees and shrubs, creating forested streams, otherwise known as riparian buffers. Riparian buffers are strips of vegetation (trees, shrubs, or grass) planted next to streams or other water bodies. By planting along these areas, we are creating a buffer between the upland activities (development, agriculture, etc.) and the waterway, protecting it from pollution and other runoff that can impact water quality.

Through Trees for Tribs, we are working to reforest New York's streams with volunteers, creating buffers along streams to improve wildlife habitat, water quality and climate resiliency.

What are the benefits associated with replanting streams, or riparian buffers?

Planting native trees and shrubs along streams provides many benefits, including:

  • Streambank stabilization
  • Erosion and sediment control
  • Filtration of nutrients and other pollutants
  • Reduction of flood impacts
  • Improvement of habitat for wildlife and pollinators
  • Shade for streams

What sites qualify for a Trees for Tribs planting?

Sites must be in riparian areas. (See What is a riparian buffer FAQ for definition.) This might include any area within the floodplain or within 300 feet of a stream, however the planting area should not be separated from the stream by a road, structure, storm water pond or other man-made feature that would prevent it from functioning as a buffer. Streams must contain continuous flow and do NOT include: storm water ponds, drainage ditches, or other man-made structures. Buffers along lakes, ponds and wetlands may also be considered.

Sites that are privately, or publically owned qualify for Trees for Tribs projects.

We prioritize sites and projects in the following way:

  • Projects coordinated by local non-profit watershed groups, land trusts, and other environmental organizations.
  • Project sites located in high profile, public or highly visible areas, such as town parks or adjacent to roads.
  • Larger sites, with a wider resulting buffer
  • Projects with an outreach and volunteer component

Sorry, plants are not available for:

  • Large projects where buffer restoration costs should have been included in the project proposal from the outset, particularly projects involving channel realignment or other major excavation work
  • State and federally funded riparian buffer programs, which provide cost-share and other funding for planting trees and shrubs

Can individual landowners apply for trees?

Yes, individual landowners who are interested in participating with Trees for Tribs are encouraged to apply to their local Trees for Tribs Coordinator.

Below is a list of Trees for Tribs watersheds that currently have a local Trees for Tribs coordinator:

The following links leave DEC's website

If you aren't sure who your local Coordinator is, you can email the Statewide Coordinator to get connected.

How do I apply for Trees for Tribs?

Applying is easy. Simply complete the Landowner Application located on our webpage and submit it to your local Trees for Tribs Coordinator.

You can identify your local Coordinator by visiting the Can individual landowners apply for trees (leaves DEC's website) section of this FAQ.

What plant species are available?

Species available for the program do differ from year to year based on the trees and shrubs available through the State Nursery at Saratoga.

A general species list of plants available through the State Tree Nursery can be found on their webpage.

Riparian species can differ depending on your location within New York State. For local suggestions, contact your local Trees for Tribs Coordinator. Coordinated watersheds are listed under the Can individual landowners apply for trees section of this FAQ.

When will plants be available?

Plants are made available through your local Trees for Tribs Coordinator and generally follow this timing:

Spring planting: The last week in April through mid-May
Fall planting: September - October

How big will the plants be?

Given that trees are grown outside in Mother Nature, size can vary from year to year and will depend on the species available. Most plants will be between 2-5 years old.

Plants may come as bareroots, or potted plants. Potted stock sizes generally range from tubelings to 3 gallon pots and 12 inches or taller. Bareroot stock is generally 6 inches tall or taller depending on their species and age (oaks tend to be smaller as they are slow growing, while willows will be larger because they grow quickly).

Trees for Tribs will not reserve the largest or oldest plants for your site. All participants are asked to accept a variety of plant sizes. Trees for Tribs staff will provide as much notice as possible regarding the size of plants that will be delivered.

Do I have to be a Watershed Partner in order to get trees?

No, individual landowners can apply to receive trees and shrubs by completing the Landowner Application through your local Trees for Tribs Coordinator.

Contact your local Trees for Tribs Coordinator to discover what is specifically offered in your watershed. You can find your Coordinator under the Can individual landowners apply for trees section of the landowner FAQs.

Do my trees need maintenance?

Yes, trees need to be tended in the same way any flower or vegetable garden needs attention. Plan on spending time each month of the first few years caring for your new trees and shrubs to ensure their successful establishment.

Please see our Maintenance Calendar Checklist for suggested monthly activities to maintain your plants.

For Partners

What is a Trees for Tribs Watershed Partner?

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Trees for Tribs program is seeking Watershed Partners to act as local Trees for Tribs Coordinators to identify and coordinate planting projects. Within the Partners geographic area, usually a watershed, county or region, partners will recruit planting locations for riparian planting/restoration and collect landowner applications. Partners are asked to provide one consolidated request of plants each season (limit 5,000 plants per watershed per year).

Partner tasks will include accepting landowner applications, assessing potential sites, hosting planting events and reporting planting site details back to the Trees for Tribs Statewide Coordinator. Partners have the option to order plants for multiple planting locations, completing several planting projects for spring and/or fall planting.

Interested Partners would agree to the following:

  • Place tree and shrub orders for planting projects no later than December 15th for the following year's plantings
  • Order no more than 5,000 native, riparian tree and shrub species for their watershed per year
  • Complete a Pot Up event, potting up all bareroot plants within 2 weeks of plant delivery. Failure to complete a Pot Up event will result in an invoice being submitted for the cost of plants, materials and delivery
  • Identify riparian planting sites that meet the mission of Trees for Tribs
  • Distribute planting stock to landowner participants for planting at riparian sites
  • Use native stock from the New York State Tree Nursery at Saratoga where possible and appropriate. For those orders not being provided by the Saratoga Tree Nursery, Partners will use New York State native plant stock, preferably seed-sourced as close as possible to the watershed
  • Participate in seed collection activities where needed. (Seeds will be provided to the State Tree Nursery at Saratoga for processing and tree and shrub production)

*Additional requirements for Partners are outlined in our Partner Agreement

How does Tree for Tribs support Partners?

The Trees for Tribs Statewide Coordinator will work with Partner organizations to:

  • Complete tree and shrub orders with the State Tree Nursery at Saratoga
  • Provide partners with technical assistance and outreach materials to create successful planting events
  • Provide partners with template worksheets to guide site assessments, site planning and maintenance of planting sites post-planting to ensure successful plant establishment

Partners will also be added to the Statewide Email list which includes:

  • Updates from other Partner organizations across the state
  • Updates on program development and implementation measures
  • Educational material on riparian plantings and related news

Partners participating in the Trees for Tribs program as a Watershed Partner will receive the following resources:

  • Trees, shrubs, tree tubes and mats
  • Outreach materials including planting and maintenance guides to teach landowners and volunteers how to plant and maintain trees
  • Support documents to organize planting sites - site assessment forms, site planning forms, maintenance forms and monitoring forms
  • Educational material to educate about the importance of planting within riparian areas

Who is qualified to be a Watershed Partner?

In order to be considered a regional, or Watershed Partner through Trees for Tribs, the organization must meet the following criteria:

  • Ability to cover a large geographic area (County, watershed, etc.)
  • Currently works on conservation/restoration projects on one of the following land types: agricultural areas, private lands, public land, etc.
  • Can provide a delivery location that includes location for storing trees and shrubs. (This is required for those groups requesting over 1,000 plants for the planting season)
  • Can identify potential volunteer groups to assist with all planting events
  • Has qualifications and capacity to coordinate planting events in the watershed, which would align with the organization's current work, or mission

Preference will be given to interested Partner organizations within high priority waterbodies and where additional funding is not needed to support planting events, or is available to support additional coordinating opportunities.

Do I have to be a Watershed Partner in order to get trees?

No, individual landowners can apply to receive trees and shrubs by completing the Landowner Application though your local Trees for Tribs Coordinator.

Contact your local Trees for Tribs Coordinator to discover what is specifically offered in your watershed. You can find your Coordinator under the Can individual landowners apply for trees section in the landowner FAQs.

What sites qualify for a Trees for Tribs planting?

Sites must be in riparian areas. (See What is a riparian buffer FAQ for definition.) This might include any area within the floodplain or within 300 feet of a stream, however the planting area should not be separated from the stream by a road, structure, storm water pond or other man-made feature that would prevent it from functioning as a buffer. Streams must contain continuous flow and do NOT include: storm water ponds, drainage ditches, or other man-made structures. Buffers along lakes, ponds and wetlands may also be considered.

Sites that are privately, or publically owned qualify for Trees for Tribs projects.

We prioritize the following types of sites and projects:

  • Projects supported by local non-profit watershed groups, land trusts, and other environmental organizations.
  • Project sites located in high profile, public or highly visible areas, such as town parks or adjacent to roads.
  • Larger sites, with a wider resulting buffer
  • Projects with an outreach and volunteer component

Sorry, plants are not available for:

  • Large projects where buffer restoration costs should have been included in the project proposal from the outset, particularly projects involving channel realignment or other major excavation work
  • State and federally funded riparian buffer programs, which provide cost-share and other funding for planting trees and shrubs

What plant species are available?

Interested Watershed Partners are encouraged to work with the Trees for Tribs Statewide Coordinator to develop a list of preferred native, riparian species for their local area. Species available for the program do differ from year to year based on the trees and shrubs available through the State Nursery at Saratoga. A plant list is created each fall for Watershed Partners to place orders from for the December 15th deadline. Please contact program's Statewide Coordinator for the latest plant availability list.

A general species list of plants available through the State Tree Nursery can be found on their webpage.

Yearly availability is at the mercy of Mother Nature, so please keep this in mind. Flexibility may be needed for certain species requests based upon the weather conditions. Generally, most Trees for Tribs plant requests are filled in their entirety.

Depending on species availability and planting season, Trees for Tribs may also order plants from private nurseries. These purchases must go through a bidding process, which can be lengthy. In order to ensure you will get plants, be sure to get plant requests for fall plantings into the Statewide Coordinator as soon as possible. Fall plantings with quick deadlines may be declined if not enough time is given for the procurement process.

Please share your knowledge of local nurseries with the Statewide Coordinator, if applicable, to help expedite the bidding process.

When do I need to put in my order for plants?

Orders for plants are required for the following year plantings by December 15th. Orders for fall plantings are required by July 15th. Both are hard deadlines to ensure that there is enough time for the ordering processes for both plants and planting materials.

Applications for each Trees for Tribs project site must also be received by the Statewide Trees for Tribs Coordinator prior to plant delivery in the early winter and spring months. (Some Watershed Partners may not have this information within this timeframe. If you are not able to provide this information prior to plant delivery, please contact the Statewide Coordinator.)

When will plants be available?

Spring planting: The last week in April through mid-May
Fall planting: September - October

How big will the plants be?

Given that trees are grown outside in Mother Nature, size can vary from year to year and will depend on the species available. Most plants will be between 2-5 years old.

Plants may come as bareroots, or potted plants. Potted stock sizes generally range from tubelings to 3 gallon pots. Bareroot stock is generally 6 inches tall or taller depending on their species and age (oaks tend to be smaller as they are slow growing, while willows will be larger because they grow quickly).

Trees for Tribs will not reserve the largest or oldest plants for your sites. All participants are asked to accept a variety of plant sizes. Trees for Tribs staff will provide as much notice as possible regarding the size of plants that will be delivered.

How many plants do I need to order to qualify for delivery?

Watershed Partners coordinating Trees for Tribs plantings are limited to 5,000 plants to be ordered per watershed each year. A minimal order of 1,000 is required for delivery. All other orders will be sent via USPS and can be expected to arrive within 2 days of shipping.

Those Watershed Partners located within reasonable driving distance of the State Tree Nursery at Saratoga are encouraged to pick-up plant orders the last week in April.

Are multiple deliveries available in a season?

For spring plantings:
Plants grown at the State Nursery in Saratoga are only available as bareroot stock in the spring and only one delivery is available.

Partners ordering between 1,000 and 5,000 plants will receive one delivery. The Partner is responsible for potting up all stock from their single delivery that is not planted within two weeks of the delivery. Failure to pot up stock will result in an invoice for plants, materials and delivery. A Pot Up event is encouraged, having volunteers assist with potting up orders with more than 1,000 plants to ensure plant survival.

For fall plantings:
Stock available for fall plantings will come from Trees for Tribs potted stock at the Nursery and/or private nursery orders. Therefore, two deliveries may be received for fall plantings if the trees and shrubs come from more than one source.

For both spring and fall - plant orders received by the ordering deadlines are considered final and no additional deliveries will be available.

For site identification and planning

How do I find sites to plant?

Trees for Tribs is looking for streamside locations to plant trees and shrubs. Project preference is given to areas impacting local waterways, including public parks, agricultural properties and areas where stream bank erosion is taking place.

Having a hard time finding places to plant? Here are some ideas for reaching out to the local community to identify potential planting sites:

  • Look for local plans (watershed plans, open space plans) that include identification of riparian restoration sites
  • Reach out to local partners who specialize in riparian restoration or conservation
  • Send mailing to landowners along high priority riparian corridors asking them if they are interested in participating in the program
  • Table at local events to inform the public about riparian tree planting efforts, letting them know that your organization is looking for streamside planting locations

How do I assess a site for planting?

Trees for Tribs can provide you with our Site Assessment sheet to guide you through the site assessment process. The process for assessing a site begins by looking at the location you think could use trees and shrubs. Does the site have erosion? Do you want to have trees that will produce shade for the stream quickly? Knowing what is happening at the site is the first step to creating goals for the stream planting. Those sites that have erosion would have a goal for stabilizing the bank. We encourage landowners and partners to keep the goal of the planting project in mind. Here are some examples outlining how a site assessment can help to create planting site goals and outline a planting plan for your property:

Example #1: The planting site has erosion with the bank being undercut by the stream.

Goal: To plant trees and shrubs that will quickly take hold of the bank to hold sediments in place.

Recommendations: Plant willows, dogwoods and other shrubs along the shoreline. These species grow quickly and hold sediments well. Follow the bank planting with trees on the upper bank. If the bank continues to erode, the trees will be established in time to prevent further loss of the bank.

Example #2: The site is a public fishing access site for trout, but lacks canopy cover and stream temperatures are warm.

Goal: To plant species that will provide shade as well as leaf litter into the stream. Leaf litter will feed aquatic insects, which in turn will feed fish. Shade will cool the stream, making better conditions for cold water fish, such as trout.

Recommendations: Plant a diverse mix of trees along the shoreline. Shrubs can be placed on banks if they are steep to help hold sediments in place. However, the goal is shade, so tall tree species are recommended. Keep in mind that the more biodiverse your planting, the more species of macro invertebrates you will feed, thus the more fish you will feed with your tree leaf litter. Plant six or more species in these areas and select trees that already exist in the park to ensure continuity of species and park ecology.

Example #3: The site is adjacent to agricultural fields. Pollinators are of interest to help pollinate crops and agricultural runoff can go into the stream.

Goal: Plant trees and shrubs to address water quality issues and also flowering shrubs and trees to provide food for pollinator species.

Recommendations: Plant riparian tree and shrub species that provide flowers including trees - red maple, paper birch, tulip tree; and shrubs - button bush, bayberry, service berry, wetland rose.

Additional site recommendations can be provided by the Trees for Tribs Statewide Coordinator. Please contact the Trees for Tribs Statewide Coordinator with site details and goals for the planting for accurate site recommendations.

How do I plan a site for planting?

Once you have assessed the goals for planting as well as potential species you would like to plant, the next step is organizing where the plants will go. As mentioned in the above assessment section, this will depend on the goal.

The general rule of thumb for planting is - trees spaced at least ten feet apart, giving them space to grow over time, and shrubs placed 3-5 feet apart. We recommend planting trees and shrubs closer on sites that need bank stabilization and need plants to establish quickly.

Each site should include a diversity of trees intermixed with a variety of shrub species. A drawing should be completed for each planting site to guide the planting event and to catalog species planted for future monitoring. We have provided a sample Project Planting Plan (PDF, 120 KB) as an example of a complete site plan.

Do planting events have to include volunteers?

Trees for Tribs strongly encourages the use of volunteers to complete planting projects. This allows for quick planting of trees as well as an opportunity to educate the local community about the importance of forested streams.

In some cases, landowners are not comfortable having volunteers on their property. This does not disqualify the landowner from participating in the program, but landowners are encouraged to still gather family members or hire contractors to assist in planting, especially if a large buffer is anticipated. This also ensures seedling survival, guaranteeing that trees and shrubs will be planted in a timely manner.

How do I design a planting and volunteer event?

If you are new to the process, please contact the Statewide Trees for Tribs Coordinator for guidance.

Planting events generally include:

  • Acknowledgement and education about the purpose of the Trees for Tribs program
  • Demonstration of how to plant bareroot and/or potted stock
  • Demonstration of how to use the tools available for the planting with an emphasis on safety (some planting events provide various tools including hoes, shovels, pick axes, post hole diggers, augers, etc.)
  • Identification of specific planting locations and which trees or shrubs go in each spot (color-coded flags can be used to guide volunteers at planting sites during planting events)
  • Discussion of the importance of planting in riparian areas and goals for planting project
  • Education about maintenance of the site and steps to follow for the weeks and months following a planting event to ensure successful plant establishment
  • The Statewide Trees for Tribs Statewide Coordinator can provide checklists for planting event materials

What data will Watershed Partners be required to provide for each project site?

In order to track plant survivorship as well as provide landowners with maintenance reminders, the following information is required for each Trees for Tribs planting site:

  • Tax parcel identification number
  • Address of planting site and mailing address of landowner
  • Completed landowner application signed by the landowner
  • GPS location of the planting site in DMS, NAD 83 18N (polygons for where trees and plants were planted is not required, but is appreciated)
  • Completed Planting and Establishment Record form
  • Completed Project Information sheet