New York City Urban Field Station

Featured Publication

[image:] cover image of GTR-NRS-156Stewardship mapping and assessment project: a framework for understanding community-based environmental stewardship - This report is intended to be a guide for those who wish to start STEW-MAP in their own city. Published January 2016.

More on STEW-MAP

Visit OASIS to view stewardship turf alongside open space, demographic, transportation, and built environment layers on a public map.

Or you can use the searchable database to search for stewardship groups by name, type, or geography.

Download the one-page STEW-MAP project summary (pdf - you may download a free pdf reader from Adobe)

Check out the STEW-MAP multi-city portal

See Project Participants

Environmental Governance and Civic Engagement

STEW-MAP: The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project

Who, what, where, why and how are urban environmental stewardship groups working in New York City? 

The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP) seeks to answer the question: What are the social and spatial (geographic) interactions among people and groups that conserve, manage, monitor, advocate for, and educate the public about their local environments (including water, land, air, waste, toxics, and energy issues)?


Stewardship is one of the ways that both informal and more organized groups contribute to the care of their local environments.  These groups work alongside or independent of public agencies and private businesses in managing urban places .  STEW-MAP is both a study of New York City’s stewardship network and a publicly available online tool to help support that network.

[image:] Map of Stewardship Organization locations in New York City area.

How was STEW-MAP developed?

The project was developed by a team of Forest Service and university researchers working with dozens of government agencies and environmental nonprofit groups.  Early on, project participants identified a need to create a common database of stewardship groups and a citywide map of stewarded sites. To date, New York City’s STEW-MAP has collected information from nearly 5,000 local citizen groups that range from informal block associations and kayak clubs, to tree planting groups and formal nonprofit organizations. A network analysis of these groups highlights the connections between civic environmental groups and identifies key stewardship nodes (those groups that work with many different partners) within the network. STEW-MAP’s publicly available online map currently displays spatial (geographic) data for over 500 stewardship groups citywide alongside other open space data layers. The project adds a social layer of information to urban geographic information on ‘green infrastructure’ in New York City.

Why is STEW-MAP important?

STEW-MAP identifies existing stewardship gaps and overlaps in order to strengthen organizational capacities, enhance citizen monitoring, promote broader public involvement in on-the-ground environmental work, and build effective partnerships between people and groups involved in urban sustainability. As funding support for green infrastructure fluctuates, it is important to cultivate long-term, community-based natural resource stewardship. STEW-MAP creates a framework to connect stewardship groups and to measure, monitor, and maximize the contribution of our civic resources. 


STEW-MAP’s database and interactive maps allow the public, goverrnment agencies, and nonprofits to visualize where and how hundreds of large and small environmental stewardship groups are working in New York City . This information can guide natural resource management, policymaking, and public outreach. Custom downloads of STEW‐MAP data have been used by the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, MillionTreesNYC, and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation in support of policymaking and natural resource management activities.


The New York City STEW-MAP data is also being analyzed together with 20 years of land cover data through cutting edge interdisciplinary research as part of a the National Science Foundation-funded ULTRA-EX project, titled “Understanding the Dynamic Connections among Stewardship, Land Cover, and Ecosystem Services in New York City's Urban Forest”.


STEW-MAP is being replicated in multiple cities (Chicago, Baltimore, and Seattle) in support of urban sustainability efforts across the country.


Waterfront Stewards
STEW-MAP was replicated for waterfront-focused stewardship groups in the New York Harbor area, in collaboration with the Hudson River Foundation/Harbor Estuary Project (HRF/HEP). This stewardship assessment identified waterfront areas with higher and lower concentrations of stewardship activity, which was then analyzed alongside data on access and community needs. This work has enabled HRF/HEP to prioritizing grant funding towards increasing public waterfront access and stewardship. Current work by NYC Urban Station Fellow Johan Enqvist will build upon this work to examine engagement by waterfront stewards in relation to place meaning.



  • A publicly available, online stewardship database of civic organizations working on environmental stewardship in New York City that can be updated over time
  • An interactive online map of the geographic area (or 'turf') of civic stewardship groups shown in relation to open space, land use, and other geographic features
  • A network analysis of the connections among stewards from civil society, business and government
  • Customized downloads and analyses of STEW-MAP data to support local agencies in natural resource management efforts



Boicourt, Kate; Pirani, Robert; Johnson, Michelle; Svendsen, Erika; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2016. Connecting with our waterways: an assessment of public access and stewardship in the New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary. New York, NY: NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary Program; and Hudson River Foundation. 36 p.

Connolly, James J.T.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Fisher, Dana R.; Campbell, Lindsay K.. 2015. Mixed methods analysis of urban environmental stewardship networks. In: Ruth, Matthias, ed. Handbook of research methods and applications in environmental studies. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing: 102-121. Chapter 5.

Connolly, James J.T.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Fisher, Dana R.; Campbell, Lindsay K.. 2014. Networked governance and the management of ecosystem services: The case of urban environmental stewardship in New York City. Ecosystem Services. 10: 187-194.

Locke, Dexter H.; King, Kristen L.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Small, Christopher; Sonti, Nancy F.; Fisher, Dana R.; Lu, Jacqueline W.T. 2014. Urban environmental stewardship and changes in vegetative cover and building footprint in New York City neighborhoods (2000-2010). Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. 4(3): 250-262.

Connolly, James J.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Fisher, Dana R.; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2013. Organizing urban ecosystem services through environmental stewardship governance in New York City. Landscape and Urban Planning. 109: 76-84.

Fisher, Dana R.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Svendsen, Erika S. 2012. The organisational structure of urban environmental stewardship. Environmental Politics 21(1): 26-48.

Fisher, Dana L.; Connolly, James J.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2011. DIGGING TOGETHER: Why people volunteer to help plant one million trees in New York City. Environmental Stewardship Project at the Center for Society and Environment of the University of Maryland White Paper #1. 36 p.

Fisher, Dana L.; Connolly, James J.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2010. Who Volunteers to Steward the Urban Forest in New York City? An analysis of participants in MillionTreesNYC planting events. Environmental Stewardship Project White Paper #1. 33 p.

STEW-MAP: Understanding Urban Environmental Stewardship in New York City with Erika S. Svendsen and Lindsay K. Campbell, for the Woodland Owner Networks. (Webinar, April 2009) 12 minutes.

Svendsen, Erika S., Campbell, Lindsay K. 2008. Urban ecological stewardship: understanding the structure, function and network of community-based urban land management. Cities and the Environment 1(1): 1-32.

STEW-MAP: Using social-spatial-network analysis to understand urban environmental stewardship in New York City and beyond, with Lindsay Campbell and Erika Svendsen, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station, New York City. (Webinar, May 2008) 30 minutes.

Svendsen, Erika; Campbell, Lindsay. 2005. The Urban Ecology Collaborative Assessment: Understanding the Structure, Function, and Network of Local Environmental Stewardship.