Thursday, January 22, 2015

EXPLORING THE NIAGARA FRONTIER: Go green and improve the environment with seedlings

Green is the buzzword of the 21st century. Businesses and governments everywhere endeavor to pursue green practices in an effort to preserve Earth’s fragile natural world and her limited resources.

A lot of people try to live green as well, but beyond recycling and buying sustainable products and packaging most either know not what to do or don’t care to, figuring they’ve done their part to save the environment.

Maybe that’s because we can’t see the forest through the trees. In all of the aforementioned cases, green is looked at as the other green (money) and it is nothing more than an economic transaction.

One’s efforts – or the cumulative efforts of a company or community - are traceable to inputs and outputs, revenues and expenses, savings and costs. Even most carbon footprint calculations are based in economic theory.

Rarely do we look past the dollar and focus on what being green is really all about: Mother Nature. If you truly want to have an effect on the environment, you don’t focus solely on what you can take from it. Instead, focus on giving back to it. It’s kind of like a modified version of the old JFK axiom: Ask not what your environment can do for you — ask what you can do for your environment.

It doesn’t have to be some life-changing event. You don’t have to become a real-life Tarzan, one with the jungle. You don’t have to abandon the comforts of human progress. No, it’s really quite simple and requires you only to get your hands dirty. There is no better and easier way to help the biosphere than by planting trees.

You can start with your own property. The Niagara Frontier is in a state of flux, its once predominantly agrarian landscape is changing before our eyes. Many long-time family farms have done one of three things over recent years: They’ve been consumed by larger farms, they’ve been allowed to revert to woodlands, or they’ve been transformed into an extension of Erie County’s northern suburbs.

In the last two scenarios, the arborist within you could make a significant impact on the health of the environment by aiding Mother Nature in her attempt to reclaim what was once hers and transform our region to a semblance of the great forest that it was before the white man arrived.

As the fields remain fallow, you could speed up the reclamation process, one that can take decades where the cover develops from weeds to shrubs to small short-lived trees to tall long-lived trees. To do so, you could plant saplings en masse and manage the area as a woodlot, even a small forest, focusing on trees of the deciduous and coniferous sort that thrive in the type of soil found on your spread, trees that will be of benefit to bird and beast.

In regard to growth of suburbia, the barren lawns can be appropriately transformed not through gardening and normal landscaping but rather via natural landscaping whereby trees and shrubs native to the region are introduced, much to the benefit of the wildlife and even the homeowner (it takes far less effort to grow a plant fit for this climate and soils). A wooded lawn is more attractive — and far more environmentally beneficial — than any flowered lawn.

The resources are there for you to do this and cheaply at that, thanks to the efforts of Niagara County.

The Niagara County Soil and Water District’s annual seedling sale is underway now through March 13th. Through this program you can buy bundles of seedlings (18” or less in height) of any one of almost three dozen species of trees and shrubs.

It’s an extremely popular program as quite often the County sells 60,000 seedlings per year. Why so popular? They are incredibly affordable ... most seedlings are available for under $1 each.

The seedlings will be available for pick-up at the Niagara County fairgrounds in late-April, allowing you to plant them at the best time of the year. You can download an order form at their website The form also features a detailed data sheet that can help you choose the trees that are best for the applications you desire while telling you how and where to plant them.

If you’d like to really save the environment – and not go through the motions - take the time to do it this spring. Planting trees and shrubs is a simple, completely natural way to be green. As your yard or forest grows you’ll be able to admire — and in some cases maybe even eat — the fruits of your labor for years to come.

Bob Confer lives in rural Gasport, where he has planted dozens of Niagara County’s seedlings over the years. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer or email him at

From the 15 January 2015 East Niagara Post

No comments: