(this post was updated May 11, 2021)

Who would think that the massive grey clouds that settled over upstate New York in the winter and summer of 1998 could possibly have silver linings? The 10,000 TREES program was developed in 1999 to assist upstate New York communities within the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp (NMPC) service territory that had sustained extensive street tree and urban forest losses and damages in the ice and windstorms of 1998.

10,000 TREES initially assisted 42 communities in planting more than 11,000 trees during the first three years of the program. Through proper species selection and placement (aka Right Tree, Right Place), participating communities planted trees with some of those planting costs offset through contributions from the 10,000 TREES program. One key facet of the planting was ensuring that trees were utility-line compatible.

Building upon that success and with many empty spaces still remaining within served communities, National Grid (the successor to NMPC) was pleased to continue assisting communities in their street replanting projects in the form of the 10,000 TREES … AND GROWING program. Utility-compatible, low-growing trees planted successfully under overhead electric lines that are accepted under the guidelines of the program receive a contribution reimbursement of $50/tree from National Grid.


with Betsy henry

One of NYSUFC’s founding members and head of ReTree Schenectady, Dr. Betsy Henry, is presented by National Grid’s Brian Skinner with a reimbursement check for trees planted within 10,000 Trees … and Growing program guidelines.

The proper selection and placement of low growing trees planted now can significantly avoid or minimize utility line conflicts in the future. They reduce or eliminate the need for line clearance tree pruning of those trees and minimize storm related tree disruptions and damages to the overhead electric distribution system as they grow and mature. This saves both the company and community money in the long run! A better, more diverse urban forest is created, and monoculture plantings of the past come to an end.

The program is open to all municipalities and agencies responsible for tree/urban forest street tree management within the National Grid upstate New York electric service territory.  Community-based, not-for-profit tree committees or similar organizations, operating for and approved by the participating municipality through a supporting resolution, may also participate. Participants are reimbursed $50/tree for trees that are successfully planted on municipal property in compliance with the program guidelines. This is not a planting grant … and participants must have funds available for their projects in advance.

Once initial paperwork is submitted and the planting is completed, a National Grid distribution forestry staff member will conduct a site audit and inspection of the trees, typically, 4-6 months following installation. This assures the trees are thriving, there are overhead electric lines present, and the tree is of the appropriate species. When the audit is complete, the entity is notified by letter as to how many trees have been accepted and if (and why) there were any rejections. A reimbursement check follows shortly thereafter.


crabapple cu woody plants database

Small, low-growing, utility-compatible, properly selected, diverse species trees can be an asset to the community and are the heart of the National Grid 10,000 Trees … and Growing program. Photo from Cornell Woody Plants Database

A list of recommended small urban trees that has been developed in cooperation with Cornell University for planting under utility wires and can be see here. There are no size requirements or limitations.

To assure that trees installed under this program survive, participants should follow good horticultural practices such as checking for the root flare before planting and providing proper maintenance such as mulching and watering. Attention should also be paid to the proper storage and handling of trees prior to installation. This Cornell guide to transplanting and maintenance is excellent.

Since 1999, 105 different communities and 22 community groups have participated in 10,000 TREES … AND GROWING and more than 22,600 trees have been approved and funded. Those cities that sustained some of the greatest damages & losses (Watertown and Syracuse) have been yearly participants. Many other storm-ravaged communities (Fayetteville, Manlius, Dewitt, E. Syracuse, Fulton, Oswego, Sackets Harbor, Canton, Potsdam and Ogdensburg) have participated at some point over the past 2 decades to help rebuild their urban canopy with thoughtfulness and guidance to avoid some of the planting mistakes of the past. Other communities with active planting programs, many with tree boards or committees (such as Buffalo, Cortland, Schenectady, Medina, Batavia, Cazenovia, Franklinville, Brockport, Tonawanda, Utica, Rome, Albany, Troy and Williamsville) see value in the program and the cost benefits provided. This is a win-win for the community as well as National Grid.

If your community is within the National Grid upstate NY electric service area and has not yet participated, we encourage you to check out the program and the benefits you (and we!) can achieve. For those outside of the National Grid service area, we encourage you to start (or continue) dialogues with your local utility arborists to consider a similar program within their service area. Utilities have a stake in the communities they serve, and we all want a better, healthier, thriving urban forest along our streets and the benefits trees provide for our customers and the places we call home.

For further information, contact Duane Dickinson, Senior Vegetation Strategist, National Grid (802-770-0197 or [email protected]).