Vassar Alumna Returns To Help Plant Hundreds Of Trees


Public Radio on Liz Putnam’s return to Vassar

A 1955 Vassar College graduate returned to campus this week to participate in a tree-planting project as part of an organization she founded.

That was a tulip tree getting its first drink after being planted in a 5-acre site at Poughkeepsie-based Vassar College’s 530-acre Farm and Ecological Preserve. The tree is one of 1,150 native to the region being planted by volunteers from Vassar and the Student Conservation Association, or SCA. The effort began Wednesday as part of National 9/11 Service Day and ended Friday. Elizabeth Putnam, who founded SCA in 1957, graduated from Vassar in 1955.

The trees will help buffer two adjoining streams, provide a seed source for the preserve and surrounding areas, and help the forest become more resilient to the effects of climate change. It was the idea of Vassar senior and biology major Carrie Perkins. Volunteers also removed invasive plants and repaired public trails. Putnam, who lives in Shaftsbury, Vermont, says she founded SCA with the idea of enlisting student volunteers to conserve national parks.

SCA has since grown to some 70,000 participants. Putnam was the first conservationist to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian award. President Obama presented the award to Putnam during a ceremony in 2010.

Tre Artis is a biology major at Vassar. He was listening to Putnam’s advice, such as:

Artis is in his junior year and describes the tree-planting experience as amazing.

Again, here’s Putnam.

Kathy Baugh is director of the SCA New York AmeriCorps Program, which contains the SCA Hudson River Valley Corps. She says 40 SCA volunteers came to Vassar for the project in addition to 200 Vassar volunteers.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation provided the trees through the “Trees for Tribs” program, with Tribs short for Tributaries.

Vassar Alumna Returns To Help Plant Hundreds Of Trees