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Volunteers Step Up to Help Farmers Maintain New Trees Within Stream Buffers

A protective tree tube being removed from a young treeThe Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a voluntary program that protects environmentally sensitive land by planting it to an approved vegetative cover for a period of 10 to 15 years. In return, farmers are paid annual rental payments and reimbursed for establishing recognized conservation practices. One important conservation practice is tree and shrub establishment within the buffer area. Trees and shrubs are planted along the stream to filter nutrients, stabilize the stream bank and enhance the river ecosystem. Biodegradable tree tubes are placed around the newly planted deciduous trees to protect them from deer grazing.

The New York City Watershed Agricultural Program has over 195 active CREP contracts on participating farms. Many of the older contracts had biodegradable tree tubes placed around the newly planted trees. After 10+ years, the tubes have not degraded at many sites and are inhibiting tree growth. Farmers with CREP contracts are required to maintain the tree and shrub plantings, but often are not able to complete the required maintenance in a timely manner. NRCS, through its Earth Team volunteer program, has many requests from local groups for volunteer opportunities. Helping farmers remove tree tubes seemed like a good match for local 4-H, scouts, school clubs, and other groups.

Matt Houck and Shelby Jennings volunteered to remove tree tubes on new trees in the NYC watershedNRCS and the Watershed Agricultural Council have partnered with volunteer groups in the area to help farmers remove tree tubes at CREP sites. A group of 4-H club members and a team from the local Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) program removed approximately 300 tree tubes from one property. Additional farmers are interested in having volunteer groups help them out with tree tube removal in the spring.


Maintaining a healthy riparian forest buffer through CREP helps:

  • Reduce sedimentation in streams
  • Improves water quality
  • Decreases fertilizer/pesticide runoff
  • Establishes wildlife habitat
  • Removes livestock from streams
  • Increases aquatic habitat
  • Upholds good farming practices

The CREP program, an enhanced version of the Conservation Reserve Program, is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) with technical assistance provided by NRCS. For more information on CREP, see the Farm Service Agency Conservation Reserve Program website.

For information on how you can volunteer through Earth Team, contact your local NRCS office.