Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Living the Green Life

Be a Friend of the Environment: February, 2021

Sign up for DEC Delivers

Enter email address:

As seasons change, so do environmental concerns. That's why we are here with monthly updates to help you Live the Green Life and be a friend of the environment. Follow us on social media (the links are in the footer of this page) and share your pictures and ideas with us by using #LiveGreenNY in your social media posts--we'd love to hear from you!

Why we love our environment

While we may not always pay attention to our environment, it is necessary to care for it. From the animals and plants that thrive here to the air we breathe, we are alive because of our natural surroundings. This month we are learning about ways to love our environment and how to continue to show and give that love throughout the year.

Loving New York's animals and plants

Red milkweed beetle with a smiley face inprint on it's thorax.
Love our environment this February and year-round.

Many of us love cute animals and want to protect them - how could you not? But remember that if you see baby animals alone, it is advised that if you care -- leave them there. They most likely are not abandoned. Please do not feed the wildlife either. While it seems that feeding the animals we encounter is a caring act, it is harmful to them and us. An animal will lose its natural fear of humans and there is the possibility of spreading disease. Love our native wildlife from afar and call for help if you think they need it.

If you find an injured animal, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or an ECO in your region.

When planting, consider planting species that are native to your region (PDF). Doing this has a few environment-loving benefits:

  • they attract and provide food and shelter for native and migratory pollinators such as birds and butterflies.
  • they are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. This results in less need for pesticides, fertilizers, and water.

Those are just a few ways in which we can support plants and animals that share our state. We never want to take our environment for granted, because it is vital to our existence -- fulfilling basic needs:

  • animals and plants provide food and materials for clothing, shelter, and fuel.
  • insects pollinate crops and control agricultural pests.
  • plants produce the oxygen we breathe. They are also the source of many medicines.
  • microorganisms decompose waste products and recycle nutrients.

Protect and preserve: diversity and species conservation

green frog setting on a pile of green stems
Looking to volunteer -- check for citizen science opportunities.

Diversity is important in our world. This holds true for animals and plants. There are some simple steps you can take to help our environment and promote conservation:

  • Return a Gift to Wildlife -- consider donating when you file your taxes. There is a line on the state income tax form to provide every taxpayer with an easy, simple way to support fish and wildlife conservation.
  • Wildlife Observation Data Collection -- Citizen Science -- Sometimes there are opportunities for you to help the Bureau of Wildlife collect valuable data. In some instances, this may involve a special effort, but most often it pertains to recording what you see while bird watching, hunting, hiking, scouting, and more. Sample opportunities include: assessing vegetation impacts from deer (AVID) (link leaves DEC's website) and submitting sightings of amphibians crossing roads in the spring.
  • Volunteer -- give your time and lend a hand. There are a lot of opportunities to help from getting involved with one of DEC's Environmental Education Centers to exploring other natural resource volunteer opportunities -- you can gain valuable experience and help with conservation.
  • Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health -- learn to appreciate nature by experiencing it first hand. Plus, enjoy the health benefits of the forest. Trees and forests are shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and even lower blood pressure. Best of all, these benefits are free. Set aside some time and enjoy the outdoors.
  • Get Seedlings from DEC Nursery's Spring Sale -- the annual sale is happening now through May 12th. Seedlings are shipped mid-April through May. Dozens of tree and shrub species are available for purchase for conservation plantings across New York State. Browse this year's selection on our website. We recommend ordering by phone for the most up-to-date species availability information. See this month's tips for a special School Seedlings program for Educators.
  • Plan to take part in Arbor Day. Looking for some tree planting inspiration? Arbor day is just around the corner on April 30th, and a socially distanced planting event is a great way to celebrate all of the benefits of trees. Enjoy New York's trees and prepare to plant!

Want to learn more? DEC provides additional information on a variety of animals, insects, and plants.

Did you know that...

  • the exact number of species in New York state is unknown. There are tens of thousands of types of plants and animals. For example, there are over 4,000 types of beetles. More species are being discovered every day.
  • invasive species are very destructive. The chestnut blight fungus from Asia nearly eliminated the American chestnut within 30 years, killing more than 4 billion chestnut trees across the east coast of the U.S. Today, this tree once known as the "giant of the eastern forest" can only be found as young sprouts growing in forest understories. These sprouts live for about 5-10 years before being re-infested and killed by the blight.
  • the passenger pigeon once thrived in New York. Sadly, now it is extinct showing that species conservation is important.
  • in 2017, The Nature Conservancy and NYS DOT installed a corridor to assist wildlife in the safe movement between Tug Hill and the Adirondack Park (leaves DEC's website). Projects such as this one not only help with wildlife safety but human safety as well - helping animals get to the other side via a culvert instead of a busy road.

Be a Friend of the Environment--February Tips

person ice fishing on a frozen water body
Be safe -- know ice thickness safety guidelines
Photo credit: Scott Stevens

Ice safety -- When participating in outdoor recreational activities involving going out onto the ice - safety should be the first priority. Four inches is a standard safety minimum for ice fishing for anglers on foot - and that is only for new, clear ice, on non-running waters. Otherwise, ice thickness recommendations change if anglers are using an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), snowmobile, vehicle, etc. It is also important to note that ice thickness can vary and is not uniform on a body of water. That's why you must frequently check to ensure safety. DEC provides a table of recommendations for activities such as ice fishing and snowmobiling - and again, these are just guidelines. It is always best to err on the side of caution. Read more about ice safety.

In the cards -- Giving valentines? Try an e-card for a no-waste option. If you want something tangible, try cards made from kenaf or hemp. If you prefer a paper card, look for one made with a high percentage of recycled content. Upcycle holiday cards into gift tags and ornaments. This tip can help with valentine's day and other holidays and birthdays throughout the year. Learn more about sustainable holidays.

School seedlings, a free program for educators -- If you are a teacher or a club leader, DEC's School Seedling Program from the Saratoga Tree Nursery is here to help! New York schools and youth organizations can apply to receive 30-50 free tree or shrub seedlings to plant with their students. This can provide young people with an up-close opportunity to participate in conservation while learning about trees and their ecosystem functions. Apply online between January 4th and March 31st, if you need assistance, contact the Saratoga Tree Nursery.

It's a wrap -- Conceal gifts in reusable gift bags or baskets, fabric scraps, scarves, unwanted maps, newspaper comics, or decorated paper bags. Keep bows, ribbons, and boxes for the next year. Remember that metallic gift wrap cannot be recycled.

Pick products with little or no packaging -- Try giving your sweetheart a real plant that can be enjoyed indoors year-round or planted outside in the spring. If you are looking to eventually plant outdoors, make sure your selection is native to New York. Instead of candy, try sweet fruits that have naturally compostable packaging (bananas and oranges have outer layers, peels, and rinds) or no packaging such as apples and pears. The treat will be just as sweet and healthier too. Another reason to reduce packaging is that not only are you paying extra for the packaging itself, but there are also costs associated with the transportation and disposal of packaging waste. Try buying in bulk and check with your hauler, municipality, or local recycling coordinator to learn what items are accepted for recycling in your local program.

Powder room preparedness -- Seventy-nine percent of residential water loss is the result of toilet leaks. Eliminate toilet leaks in your home. Often silent, these leaks can waste up to 300 gallons of water daily. If you pay for water, this can become expensive. If your water is from a well, your pump will run more frequently, increasing your electric bill. Use food coloring to check for leaks. Also, replace the refill valve or flush valve when needed.

trees in the woods with a dusting of snow and sunlight
The great outdoors -- enjoy all nature has to offer.

Indoor clothes drying -- Consider using a folding drying rack. Drying clothes this way will save money on electricity/gas, increase the longevity of your clothing, but it will also put moisture into the air to help humidify your home. With added heat and related dryness in the winter months, humidifying can be beneficial.

Adventure awaits -- What better way to love the environment than to get out and enjoy it? Our environment has a lot of offer -- from providing scenic walks to beautiful seasonal flowers, being home to towering trees and abundant greenery, snowy grounds, to trees glistening with ice -- any time of year there is a lot to enjoy. While it may be a bit colder to go outside in February, opportunities for outdoor recreation are still plenty -- snowmobiling, ice fishing, skiing, a fresh air walk, or bird watching -- be safe and have fun in New York this season and year-round.

Love our February tips? Then make sure to visit this page again next month when we provide information on how to "march" into your work or home office and through changing habits and taking simple steps -- help our environment. Also, share your photos and ideas about love for our environment with us using #LiveGreenNY