One of the hallmarks of the Hudson Valley is its natural beauty. Tourists come from all over the coast and country to experience the Hudson Valley's scenic landscape. While many do little things each day to maintain the thriving natural environment, one group recently teamed up with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to make a big impact at one Orange County State Forest.

ASEZ WAO's New Windsor branch partnered with the New York DEC on Sunday, June 9th to plant a record number of new trees in Orange County's Stewart State Forest.

Stewart State Forest

Stewart State Forest is a public, recreational state forest spanning 6,700 acres. Among those 6,700 acres are 22 miles of hiking and biking trails for the community to use as well as a rare combination of wetlands, fields, and forest.

This June, the forest welcomed 300 new trees planted by ASEZ WAO and the New York DEC. This marks the first major tree planting project Stewart State Forest has been a part of.

Portions of Stewart State Forest once served as agricultural fields that would produce crops like corn. Planting more trees of native New York varieties is an important and effective step in transforming this forest back to its natural flourishing environment according to the DEC.

The trees planted included red osier dogwoods, bare oak, sycamore, sweet gum, red maple, silver maple, white pine,  pussy willow, black chokeberry, red oak, and silky dogwood.

300 Down, Over 6 Billion to Go

This mass tree-planting event is part of ASEZ WAO's goal of planting 7 billion new trees worldwide. This initiative, dubbed the Mother's Forest project, aims to combat the growing desertification issue. This is when an area's biodiversity is stripped, making the land unable to support trees, crops, or any other beneficial nature.

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According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, desertification is at the core of major socio-economic issues like poverty, food insecurity, and forced migration. This initiative to fill land with more native trees aims to turn back the clock on some of this land.

In speaking about the project at Stewart State Forest, ASEZ WAO volunteer Bryce Clemens explained, "This unprecedented tree planting event for Stewart State Forest is the perfect example for future restoration projects on a global scale. I hope the saplings we planted grow to be big and strong trees that bear abundant fruit!"

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