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Buffer in a Bag

Woman by stream installs tree tubes around seedlings
We recommend using tree protection such
as tree tubes when planting seedlings

The 2019 Buffer in a Bag application period is now closed.

Through the Buffer in a Bag initiative, NYS DEC's Trees for Tribs Program and the Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery provide landowners with a free bag of bare-root trees and shrubs to enhance the streamside area on their property. Each bag of seedlings is made up of a variety of native trees and shrubs chosen specifically to improve streamside areas in New York by supporting wildlife and improving water quality.

Who is Eligible

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 bag of seedlings. Properties with 50-99 feet of streamside land are eligible for one bag, and properties with 100 or more feet are eligible to 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. Not sure if your site fits this criteria? Contact the Trees for Tribs program by calling (518) 402-9405 or emailing

What is Included

Each bag includes 25 bare-root native tree and shrub seedlings, approximately 1 to 2 feet in height. All species are well-suited to streamside conditions and are tailored to be native to your region of New York State (see a map of regions). The species for each region in 2019 are*:

  • Long Island Packet (DEC regions 1 & 2):
    • Bayberry, beach plum, eastern red cedar
    Man opens box containing bag of seedlings
    The bags of seedlings are shipped to
    program participants
  • Hudson/Delaware Watershed Packet (DEC regions 3 & 4):
    • Red osier dogwood, wetland rose, elderberry, river birch, red oak
  • Northern NY Packet (DEC regions 5 & 6):
    • Red osier dogwood, balsam fir, white spruce or hemlock, wetland rose, pussy willow
  • Western NY Packet (DEC regions 7, 8 & 9):
    • Sand cherry, winterberry, silky dogwood, red oak, northern white cedar

*Species selection is subject to change

Each bag also comes with support materials including: a Planting Guide (PDF), Planting Layout Instructions, a Tree Protection Guide, a Maintenance Guide (PDF) and a Maintenance Calendar Checklist (PDF). These guides will help you ensure that your trees and shrubs get off to a good start and receive proper maintenance to increase the probability of creating a healthy riparian buffer for flood resiliency, wildlife habitat and improved water quality.

How to Apply

The 2019 application period is now closed.

Buffer in a Bag kits are sent to selected applicants in late April or early May. If you have questions, please email or call the Trees for Tribs Program at (518) 402-9405.

Recipients should expect to be contacted in roughly 5 years to submit progress pictures of your buffer's growth and to provide information about the success of your streamside buffer.

Planting Guidance

The trees and shrubs must be planted within a riparian area (along a riverbank, adjacent to a stream or creek, or along the shore of a pond or lake). This can include an area within a floodplain or within 300 feet of a stream. 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 the buffer from functioning. Stormwater ponds, drainage ditches, or other man-made structures are not eligible.

Plants are available in late April or early May and must be planted or put into cold storage within one day of being received.

For additional tree planting guidance and resources, see the Trees for Tribs webpage.