STEW-MAP: The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project

What is STEW-MAP?

The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP) is a research methodology, community organizing approach, and partnership mapping tool developed by scientists at the USDA Forest Service Northern Research station that answers the question: who takes care of the local environment? This question is important because stewards, or civic groups that engage in caring for local nature, play a significant role in building stronger, healthier, greener and more resilient communities. Understanding the structure and function of stewardship groups across a landscape is a powerful step in leveraging stewardship capacity and achieving social and environmental outcomes as well as developing a model of shared stewardship

STEW-MAP surveys civic groups who work to conserve, manage, monitor, transform, educate on and/or advocate for the environment across a defined city, region, or landscape. STEW-MAP can be used to support the USDA Forest Service’s model of shared stewardship, which is about working together in an integrated way to make decisions and take actions that will yield meaningful outcomes at meaningful scales.

The data collected in STEW-MAP studies produces a publicly available online tool that allows users to visualize and query data on a region’s civic environmental stewardship resources. STEW-MAP was first applied in New York City in 2007 and since then has been iterated in over 12 locations across the world and was replicated in NYC in 2017. You can read more about the places where STEW-MAP has been implemented and their local outcomes by navigating to the “Locations” tab in the drop-down menu.

STEW-MAP databases and interactive maps allow land managers, community organizations, non-profits, and the public to see where hundreds of environmental stewardship groups are working in a particular landscape of interest. This tool can be applied to strengthen capacity, promote engagement with on-the-ground projects, and build more effective partnerships among stakeholders. STEW-MAP data provide a rich complement to biophysical and geographic information on green infrastructure, improving outcomes for a wide range of applications, including:

  • MillionTrees NYC: STEW-MAP data, paired with an Urban Tree Canopy Assessment, helped NYC Parks to successfully reach its goal of planting and caring for one million trees.
  • Disaster preparedness and response: The NYC Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency partnered with STEW-MAP to identify civic groups as crucial neighborhood assets to enable resilience through extreme events, from heat waves to coastal flooding.

STEW-MAP Data Include:

Organizational Characteristics

Organizational Characteristics

STEW-MAP provides information about the organizational characteristics of each group including year founded, mission, primary work sites, services offered, budgets and staff. At the same time, STEW-MAP allows you to better understand how each group functions through their expressed goals, impacts and modes of communication.

Geographic Turf

Geographic Turf

STEW-MAP displays the area of activity, or ‘stewardship turf,’ of each group. Stewardship turf could be an entire park, a forest patch, or a watershed. These geographic data can demonstrate the overlaps and gaps in stewardship capacity across a landscape and can be analyzed in concert with demographic and environmental characteristics of communities.



STEW-MAP displays a group’s social network to understand how civic environmental organizations are connected. This enables us to examine the structure and function of environmental stewardship across a city or region. From social network analyses, we can assess which organizations are operating as brokers of information, funding, and services; the role of government in relation to these civic stewardship organizations; and which organizations are more isolated than others.

Practitioners can use these data to understand who is working in a given region and what are their assets; this can improve outcomes for many applications, at multiple scales. A sample listing includes:

  • Community outreach & dialogue
  • Citizen science & environmental education
  • Stream & forest restoration projects
  • Community gardening & urban agriculture
  • Park maintenance & planning
  • Disaster preparedness & recovery
  • Invasive species monitoring & management

STEW-MAP Locations

STEW-MAP has been applied in a variety of settings, from rural to urban landscapes and from small to large communities. Our methodology and tools are standardized and can be adapted for localized needs, including National Forests. To learn more about what STEW-MAP looks like in your community, use the drop down menu in the top navigation box or click the map below. Note that the map includes locations where STEW-MAP has been completed, where data collection is underway, or prospective studies where initial consultations and scoping have occurred.

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Last modified: September 9, 2020