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Buffer in a Bag

The 2020 application period is closed. Thank you to all of our participants! Please check back next year.

Watch our Buffer In A Bag Celebration and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

Through the Buffer in a Bag initiative, NYS DEC's Trees for Tribs Program and the Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery provides landowners with a free bag of bare-root tree and shrub seedlings 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.

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

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. Applicants are limited to one bag per property. All participants 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 these 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 native to New York. Applicants with property on Long Island will receive the Long Island Packet. The species packets for 2020 were*:

  • Long Island Packet:
    • Bayberry, beach plum, eastern red cedar
  • New York State Packet:
    • Sand bar willow, wetland rose, winterberry, river birch, red oak
Man opens box containing bag of seedlings
The bags of seedlings are shipped to
program participants

*Species selection is subject to change

Each bag also comes with support materials including: a Planting and Maintenance Guide, and Planting Layout Instructions. These guides will help you ensure that your trees and shrubs get off to a good start. Proper maintenance will create a healthy riparian buffer for flood resiliency, wildlife habitat, and improved water quality.

How to Apply

The 2020 application period has closed. Thank you to all of our applicants. Please check back next year!

Application Requirements

Applications are limited, recipients are selected first-come, first-served. Complete applications will help make sure your application is processed successfully.

  • Email will be used to communicate updates about the program, please include an email and make sure you check it.
  • GPS coordinates for your site are a requirement. Instructions are available to help you find your site's GPS coordinates (PDF).
  • A map of your planting site must be required with the planting boundary drawn on. Instructions are available to help you screenshot your planting site (PDF) on Google Maps.
  • Please check that all fields of the application are completed before submitting your application.

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 constructed feature that would prevent the buffer from functioning. Stormwater ponds, drainage ditches, or other artificial 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 our How to Plant a Tree webpage.