Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

History of the Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery

tree seedlings planted where a farm once existed
Tree seedlings planted on reforestation areas
which were previously abandoned farms

The Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery in Saratoga is the oldest state forest tree nursery in the country. When DEC established the Nursery program in 1902, the original priority was reforestation. Reckless logging and forest fires had left bare slopes that were losing soil to erosion, contributing to serious flooding problems and contaminating water supplies. The present Nursery in Saratoga was established in 1911 as one of several State Nurseries across New York. In the decades before World War II, the primary mission of the Nursery was to grow conifer seedlings for water supply protection, soil protection and for timber plantations to ensure a steady supply of lumber.

In the early 1930s the State began the reforestation system by acquiring abandoned farms. Most of this land had to be planted to protect the soil. Nursery production rose to meet the demand, and peaked in 1938 at 72.8 million seedlings produced for planting just in that year. These plantings were mainly accomplished by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

With the establishment of the Department of Environmental Conservation in 1970, which combined Natural Resources and Environmental Quality in one department, the Nursery's mission became more diverse. Along with traditional forest seedling production and wildlife shrubs, the Nursery also began to produce trees and shrubs for remediation, wetland restoration, riparian protection, with a focus on growing native species from local seed sources. Over the past hundred years, the Nursery has adapted to the changing needs of forestry and land management practices. The Nursery is an essential part of DEC that embodies the goals and mission in the form of living plants that support the multiple goals and missions of DEC.

Since the inception of New York's nursery program in 1902, more than 1.6 billion tree and shrub seedlings have been produced by the State.

state reforestation area
A State reforestation
area today

Colonel William F. Fox

In 2019, the State Tree Nursery in Saratoga Springs was renamed the Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery. A civil war veteran who went on to become New York's first superintendent of forests, Colonel Fox is credited with establishing the New York State tree nursery program, putting forest protection under state authority, expanding the Forest Preserve, and being an early advocate of the importance of urban forestry.

Articles on the Nursery's History

  • A Century of Seedlings (PDF) - 2007 Conservationist article describing the past, present, and future projects of the Nursery at Saratoga
  • Nursing Forests Back to Health (PDF) - 2003 Conservationist article celebrating the centennial of the NYS Nursery program and its role in forest management
  • The Fox and the Forest (PDF, 5.3 MB) - 1988 Conservationist article on the impressive legacy of Colonel William F. Fox

  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-402-9405.
  • Contact for this Page
  • Saratoga Tree Nursery
    2369 Route 50 South
    Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-4738
    518-581-1439
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions