Schools across New York can now receive free seedlings for spring planting through the Department of Environmental Conservation's School Seedling Program.

The program provides 50 tree seedlings or a mixed packet of 30 wildlife shrubs to any public or private school that would like to participate.

"This program is a great way for children to connect with nature," DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. "Learning that trees have special needs in order to grow strong and healthy helps children play a role in improving our environment."

The seedlings can be planted on school grounds or other community spaces. Teachers and students are encouraged to plan the project ahead of time by discussing the value trees contribute to the environment and to determine the objectives of the planting. Trees are instrumental in helping control erosion, enhance wildlife, provide windbreaks, and support many other conservation practices.

Planting 50 seedlings will require approximately 1,800 square feet, while the shrub planting will require about 900 square feet.

To participate, schools should contact DEC’s Saratoga Tree Nursery at (518) 587-1120, or the nearest DEC regional forestry office to request a "School Seedlings" brochure.

The brochure contains all the information necessary to place an order.

The information and application is also available online at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9393.html. Applications must be received at the nursery by March 31.

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