The Canal Forest Restoration Project (CFRP) at SUNY Oswego's Rice Creek Field Station is on a mission to restore native tree species to New York State’s canal regions and is seeking help from the public in receiving and planting trees.

Species such as white oak, swamp white oak, and white pine were disproportionately lost due to timber harvest and wetland draining to support the canal industry. These trees are still underrepresented in upstate New York, and need assistance to restore their presence.

CFRP is growing these and other native trees for free distribution to the public. Once planted, these trees will provide habitat for native animal species including birds and mammals, return culturally significant trees to the region, and trap and store carbon during their long lives to reduce the impacts of climate change.

To do all this, the CFRP needs help.

First, they need people to plant trees. CFRP currently has saplings available of white oak, swamp white oak, burr oak, English oak and white pine. Individuals can request two or more trees and CFRP team members will arrange for a contact-free pickup at Rice Creek Field Station, now through the end of October. Anyone in the upstate New York region is welcome to participate. Requests can be made on Rice Creek's CFRP website.

A second way to help is by alerting CFRP of potential sites to collect. The project seeks seeds of the following species: white oak (Quercus alba), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), burr oak (Quercus macrocarpa), white pine (Pinus strobus) and tupelo/black gum (Nyssa sylvatica). For those unsure how to identify these species, helpful resources like the free app PlantNet that can help identify trees based on photographs of the leaves. Those who think they might have these trees can also email images to for confirmation.

A third way to help is by donating empty and clean five-gallon buckets, preferably with lids. CFRP uses these for overwintering seeds in soil. Buckets can be dropped off at Rice Creek Field Station anytime between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Those dropping off supplies are advised to call 315-312-6678 in advance to ensure staff availability.

A final way to support the CFRP is to become a volunteer. Volunteers help care for trees, collect seeds and represent the organization at outreach events. Volunteer opportunities have been limited until now due to pandemic restrictions, but will be available once again starting in late summer or early fall. To sign up to be a volunteer, visit Rice Creek's CFRP website.

The Canal Forest Restoration Project is supported by many volunteers, partners such as Steven Frost and the New York State Nursery, donors including the Pauk family and all those who plant a tree. Visit Rice Creek's CFRP website for more information about the project including how to support it through planting, volunteering and donating.