Together with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today held the first tree planting event as part of the Lake Champlain Basin “Trees for Tributaries”  program at Marcy Field (Municipal airstrip and multiuse park) in the Town of Keene, Essex County.  Today’s planting served as a kickoff for the Lake Champlain tributary corridor tree planting program, to be a program of the State Tree Nursery in Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County.

The program’s goals are to restore and protect the stream corridors that connect to Lake Champlain, comprising the Lake Champlain Watershed.  At today’s event, volunteers and local groups planted trees along an area of the Ausable River corridor damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

“In the wake of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, homeowners and communities across the state have witnessed the devastation that swollen rivers and streams can pose to people and property,” Commissioner Martens said.  “Our Lake Champlain Basin Trees for Tributaries program will provide no cost trees and shrubs to restore damaged banks of streams, tributaries and rivers damaged by the tropical storms and subsequent flooding. I am happy to announce this program in 2011, which Governor Andrew Cuomo has proclaimed New York Year of Forests to celebrate the United Nations’ International Year of Forests in recognition of the great importance of New York’s forests as the source of clean air and water, habitat for fish and wildlife, open space for public recreation and enjoyment, and a healthy forest products industry.”

The Lake Champlain Basin “Trees for Tributaries” program is one of several Lake Champlain conservation projects, which are part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative and these conservation projects are receiving a total of $1.3 million dollars. On October 12, 2011 the Obama Administration released a report which details how AGO is opening up access to lands and waters, restoring critical landscapes, and supporting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. The report outlines combined conservation and recreation successes, including gains in youth employment, new trail designations, the creation of urban campgrounds, and historic investments in large landscapes from Lake Champlain to the Florida Everglades.

“AGO is not only protecting our environment, it’s creating jobs,” said United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “We’re working with farmers and ranchers to conserve working agricultural lands; we’re restoring our forests in ways that create jobs in recreation and forest products; and we’re creating employment opportunities for young adults, veterans and others on our National Forests.”

“I’m very pleased with this newly launched effort focused on the health of rivers and streams in the Adirondacks severely damaged by the recent storms,” said Senator Betty Little.  “Restoration follows recovery. Communities, landowners, sportsmen and environmentalists all are eager to begin the process of improving the quality and condition of these waterways and this is a great way to start.”

“DEC thanks NRCS for its support and partnership in the Lake Champlain Basin “Trees for Tributaries” program. The program is modeled after the Hudson River Estuary “Trees for Tributaries” program started by the Hudson River Estuary Program in 2007,” said New York State Forester Robert K. Davies. “This program will restore riparian areas, part of the “green infrastructure” that is the first line of defense against storm and flooding events, which have been identified as priorities in the state’s Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy, Open Space Conservation Plan, and Climate Action Plan.”

Creating the Lake Champlain Basin program provides a focus within state governments for the restoration, enhancement and protection of riparian areas and stream and tributary corridors.  With the increased intensity and duration of storm events, taking action now to protect stream and tributary corridors is a tangible way for land owners to restore and protect their property from erosion and flooding.  Studies have long documented the ability of trees and shrubs and other plant materials to absorb rain water and slow down water flows, as well as binding and stabilizing stream and riparian corridors banks.

In addition to stabilization benefits, trees and other natural vegetation along waterways (also called riparian forests) can reduce up to 69 percent of total nitrogen, 60 percent of total phosphorous, and 71 percent of total sediment from an average agricultural setting.  Riparian buffer restoration is one of the most low cost ways to meet water quality goals established for major water bodies. Riparian forests also provide much-needed shading, cooling and food for trout and other fish habitat. DEC has enlisted the support of many partners including the federal government, local governments and volunteer watershed protection organizations that already are heavily involved in community and watershed protection programs.

In partnership with NRCS, the State Tree Nursery at Saratoga will be providing free native tree and shrubs grown at the State Tree Nursery. “The Saratoga Tree Nursery is proud to be providing native tree and shrub species for the Lake Champlain Basin “Trees for Tributaries” program,” said Nursery Manager David Lee. “Planting stock is grown from seed and cutting stock sourced within New York State to provide trees and shrubs best adapted to the climate of the state.”

The “Trees for Tributaries” program will coordinate volunteer and technical assistance for landowners within the Lake Champlain watershed to protect their stream and riparian corridors through a tree and shrub planting effort next spring.  A similar program within New York’s upper Susquehanna watershed is also being funded in partnership with the federal Chesapeake Bay program.  Private landowners, municipalities and not-for-profit landowners within the New York portion of the Lake Champlain watershed will be eligible to apply to participate in the “Trees for Tributaries” program. Applications will be sought this winter for spring plantings. Further details will be posted on the webpage listed below when they become available.

To read the Progress Report or for more information about the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, visit:  www.americasgreatoutdoors.gov  or www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/ago.

For more information on the Lake Champlain Basin “Trees for Tributaries” program, visit DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/77710.html, or email the program at treesfortribs@gw.dec.state.ny.us or call the Division of Lands and Forests at 518-402-9405.

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