The SUNY Cobleskill campus welcomed its newest members this week – 160 trees planted by more than 50 students, faculty, and staff – and this is just the start of a new, decade-long project. Throughout the month of November, an additional 900 trees will be planted as part of a larger riparian forest along the banks of the Cobleskill Creek. The ultimate goal of the project is to plant 10,000 new trees over the next ten years.
The tree planting effort hopes to restore native upland and lowland forests that have increased water-holding capacity, are less prone to erosion, and filter poor-quality water. These forests will support biodiversity, enhance wildlife habitat, and increase corridor connectivity for species that have declined due to habitat loss.
Planning for this reforestation project was carried out by Associate Professor Andrew Gascho Landis’ Forest Ecology class, Instructional Support Technician Jess Furlong, Campus Sustainability Coordinator Karina Benninger, and Environmental Management Student Lisa Starikov.
The project is supported by the Laura Jane Musser Fund, which awarded an Environmental Initiative Grant of $29,200 to the College in support of the Cobleskill Creek Riparian Forest Trail.
“The positive impacts of planting trees is widely known and we are excited to use the opportunity to work toward several important goals including creating educational opportunities for our students, developing natural outdoors spaces for the community to enjoy, supporting natural carbon storage, and preventing streambank erosion,” said Benninger. “The promotion of biodiversity and habitat protection is an important goal of Executive Order 22 recently given by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, and the tree planting project aligns with and exemplifies that goal while integrating seamlessly with the mission of the College and our academic enterprise.”
In the Spring of 2021, Dr. Gascho Landis’ Ecological Restoration class planted the beginnings of the campus’ riparian forest, with 800 new trees planted along State Route 7 to the Cobleskill Creek, representing 22 different tree and shrub species.
The class studied the planting area’s landscape features and soil map to choose species suitable for various conditions. Upland species are planted on the hill slope where soil conditions were drier; lowland species are concentrated along Cobleskill Creek. Students also considered the expected changes in climate and planted several species adapted to future conditions, including pin oak, redbud, pawpaw.
The forest is expected to provide canopy coverage to the area in about ten to 15 years. The project was made possible by a $5,000 gift from the Gerald and Elizabeth Jennings Foundation, used in purchasing the seedlings for the planting.