Tree-Planting Questions & Answers

Why does FWR plant so many trees? 

We care about the health of our watershed

  • We care about healthy food webs: insects, fish, birds, small mammals
  • We love to watch birds
  • We love to provide homes and food for wildlife
  • We love clean, cold streams
  • Fish love clean, cold streams

We care about the human communities in our watershed

  • We want our kids to enjoy a healthy natural environment
  • We want our towns to be able to maintain roads and bridges affordably
  • We want our neighbors to live without worry about being displaced by flooding

The health of our watershed and our communities is threatened by some of the ways we use our land and by our changing climate and weather patterns

  • Insect and bird populations are crashing around the world
  • Fish habitat is threatened by increasing water temperature and sediment
  • Increased development contributes to increases in flooding, erosion, and damage to our communities, homes, and infrastructure
  • Climate change is causing more frequent heavy rain

FWR responds to these threats by planting trees, because:  

  • Planting trees is one of the best solutions to these problems since trees have multiple benefits.
  • It is a relatively inexpensive way to restore ecological health
  • It is a low-tech restoration activity that many people can participate in, and by engaging volunteers and donors, we increase the number of people in our watershed who feel connected to the landscape
  • It is a good hands-on educational activity for children

What are some of the benefits that trees provide?

  • People who spend time looking at trees have better mental health
  • Trees shade streams to keep the water cool
  • Shrubs grow berries and seeds and attract insects for birds and wildlife to eat
  • Shrubs and trees provide shelter for all kinds of wildlife
  • Shrubs and trees along streambanks attract insects, which fall into the water for fish to eat
  • A rougher landscape slows the flow of water across the land
  • Trees and shrubs absorb the impact of rainfall, both by intercepting rain drops before they hit the ground and by taking up moisture through leaves, stems, and roots

Where do we plant trees and shrubs?

  • Throughout the Winooski watershed
  • Along streams
  • Around lakes and ponds
  • In backyards
  • On farms
  • We choose sites that have willing landowner, need woody vegetation
  • We are less likely to plant sites where there is a very dynamic stream channel and active erosion of the bank, where there is a lot of knotweed (which is hard to remove and will outcompete our plants), and where there is not enough depth of buffer to make a good impact

When do we plant trees? 

  • For just a couple of weeks in late April and early May, between snowmelt and leaf-out, ideally
  • We sometimes plant in the fall, but the survival rate may be lower
  • We can plant container plants in the summer, but these are much more expensive, and need more care, such as watering

What kinds of trees and shrubs do we plant?  

  • Trees and shrubs that are native to Vermont, because those are the species that have evolved in tandem with our native insects and birds
  • We choose plants for each site that are suitable for the soil type and consistent with the existing natural communities nearby (a natural community is an assortment of plants that grow together because they like the same growing conditions (sunlight, moisture, soil) and they complement each other and support similar assortments of insects, birds, and mammals)

Where do the trees come from? 

  • Intervale Conservation Nursery in Burlington (preferred, since they provide native species grown from locally harvested seeds)
  • Coldstream Farm in Michigan

What affects the plants’ survival?

  • Species suitability for the site conditions
  • Species hardiness/suitability for bare root planting with little follow-up care
  • Health of plants at time of planting
  • Drought or unusual heat in the weeks after planting
  • Competition from weeds
  • Rodents eating the bark under snow cover
  • Beavers
  • Deer
  • Mowing

How much does it cost to plant one tree?

  • There are quite a few steps to planting a tree:
    • Fundraising -- applying for grants, understanding funding sources’ requirements, building relationships with funders
    • Identifying potential planting sites
    • Outreach to landowners, site visits, agreements
    • Creating planting plans
    • Ordering trees
    • Recruiting volunteers
    • Scheduling planting days
    • Sourcing supplies such as buckets, shovels, pruners, etc
    • Grant management
  • With staff time, mileage, supplies, and plants, it costs about $10.00/plant if they are planted by volunteers, or $15.00 each if we hire someone to plant them

Who pays for all of these trees?

  • As with all of our programs, donations are the foundation of our work. Donations cover our rent, insurance, software, etc, so that the organization can function. We do not receive enough donations, though, to cover the cost of our programs, such as tree planting.
  • Watersheds United Vermont provides grants for project development and for woody buffer planting through a block grant program from Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. These grants can be used for pretty much all of the different kinds of costs associated with planting.
  • LCBP Implementation Grant for Lawn to Forest
  • SeaGrant award for Lakeshore Education and Action Program
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service Partners for Fish & Wildlife program provides technical assistance, and for some sites -- but not all -- covers half of the purchase price of each plant up to $3 per stem. Our average purchase price per plant is $5.60 (as of 2021), so the average reimbursement we receive from PFW is $2.80. The majority of our planting projects do receive this funding.
  • Pur Projet provides $6.75 per tree but requires a 75% survival rate after two years, so there is additional monitoring cost associated with this funding
  • 350VT via Arbor Day Foundation can pay $4/tree but only for trees one can walk under, not for shrubs
  • Private foundations, restricted donations

Who does the planting?

You do! Nearly all of our planting is done by volunteers.

  • Suncommon
  • National Life Group
  • Cabot Creamery
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Scout troops
  • Schools
  • Individual volunteers

Do you know of other groups who plant trees?

  • We are part of a Riparian Buffer Practitioners Network of groups, agencies, and individuals whose work connects with planting.
  • We have a list serv, and at least one conference annually to learn from each other.
  • Some people are experimenting with planting tree seeds, others are experimenting with different site preparation techniques, and some groups mulch.
  • USFWS has been tracking survival rates by species, and helping with monitoring and maintenance in the summer

How many trees have you planted?

  • We have been planting trees since 2006
  • From 2006 to 2021, we planted a total of 34,285 trees
  • Since 2013, we have planted an average of 7.5 acres per year (~3000 trees/year)
  • In 2021, we planted ~5,000 plants


Species list, 2021

Balsam poplar


Black cherry

Black willow


Eastern Cottonwood




Red Osier Dogwood

Shrub Willow

Silky Dogwood

Silver Maple

Speckled Alder


White Pine