ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has opened the application period for qualified landowners to get a free bag of tree and shrub seedlings. Each bag contains 25 seedlings, which can be planted near streams, rivers, or lakes to help stabilize banks, protect water quality, combat climate change, and improve wildlife habitat.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said streamside plantings help decrease erosion, slow floodwaters, and sequester carbon. “I encourage New York landowners with waterside properties to participate in DEC’s ‘Buffer in a Bag’ program to bolster the State’s efforts to protect water quality and help safeguard communities from flooding,” he stated.

To qualify, landowners must have property with at least 50 feet bordering a stream, river, or lake, and provide photos or a map of the planting location. Previous recipients are encouraged to reapply to continue to build riparian buffers.

Applicants are eligible for one bag of seedlings and recipients are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis. A total of 350 bags will be available statewide for this round of applications.

Visit DEC’s website for more information about the application process and requirements. Applications are due by 3 p.m. on April 7.