Baltimore Field Station

STEW-MAP: The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project

We seek to characterize the natural resource governance systems of Baltimore, and how they have changed during the transition from the Sanitary to Sustainable City. We are particularly motivated by the recent rise of urban sustainability policies and programs. It has become widely proposed that the success of these sustainability initiatives will require a form of adaptive governance in which city agencies must partner with, and even share authority with, organizations from other sectors and levels of government. Yet the resulting collaborative networks are often poorly understood. The study of networks has been a challenge for researchers, both at large scales and over time. This may be especially the case in urban environments, where many diverse actors work on a patchwork of varying projects covering multiple land uses and types. The need for comparative and longitudinal studies in this area is evident, as cities are looking to adaptive management strategies to respond to the needs of a rapidly changing population and landscape. Indeed, a heightened understanding of governance network structures, functions, locations, and outcomes could contribute to the likelihood of their success.

[image:] Chloropleth map of Baltimore area showing number of environmental stewardship groups per neighborhood.In 2011, the USDA Forest Service Baltimore Field Station and the Baltimore Ecosystem Study partnered with city agencies, local non-profits, and community groups on a research project that will identify, survey, and map all of the stewardship activities of groups and organizations in Baltimore City.
We define stewardship as caring for the land, water, & people, this covers many different activities: from planting window boxes to advocating for clean streets to educating about the Chesapeake Bay. From late 2011 through early 2012, over 600 Baltimore organizations that do this type of work —ranging from large corporations to tiny, volunteer block groups — were surveyed.

The information sought included:
WHO works on the environment in Baltimore? WHAT types of stewardship activities are they working on? WHERE in the city is stewardship work being done? WHICH neighborhoods have more or less activity? HOW do stewardship groups and networks affect the communities and environment where they work?

How will this research be used?

Survey results will be published in reports and on a publicly available, interactive map so that Baltimore residents, public agencies, and stewardship groups can visualize and search the types and locations of stewardship work being done in their city. This can help support organizations as they seek new projects, funding, and opportunities to grow and build capacity.

Why is this research important?

One organization can help build stronger communities and improve the environment, but it is only one part of a larger picture. Given the relationships and overlap among those working on the environment, it is important to understand the networks that tie them together. In this dynamic social network map of environmental stewardship organizations in Baltimore the relationships between organizations become visually apparent.

Longitudinal Analysis of Stewardship Networks in the Gwynns Falls Watershed in Baltimore City

[image:] Image depicts changes in structure of the Gwynns Falls Watershed Organizational Network from 1996 to 2011.Changes in the environmental stewardship network in Baltimore City's Gwynns Falls Watershed were examined by comparing two in-depth case studies separated by 15 years (1996-2011). Social network data were collected from organizations conducting stewardship activities in the watershed in 1996 and 2011. During this period, the Baltimore Sustainability Plan was formulated and enacted. The evaluation of the network over time revealed substantial changes in organizational composition and network structure within this region. The trends reported here support the theory of a shift in governance of the Sustainable City. The 1996 study demonstrated a more polycentric, multi-sectoral, interconnected management regime than would be expected from traditional government in the Sanitary City. Twelve years later, in 2011, these shifts were even more evident, as the governance network was less centralized and distributed largely among local non-profits and city agencies. The majority presence of the non-profit sector supports governance theories that public agencies rely more heavily on non-profit actors for the service and delivery of public goods than in traditional government systems.

An Assessment and Comparison of Environmental Stewardship Networks in Baltimore and Seattle

Through two citywide surveys in Baltimore and Seattle, data were collected on the attributes of environmental stewardship organizations and their network relationships. Social network and comparative analyses were conducted to examine a) the organizational composition of the network, and b) how information and knowledge are shared throughout the network. Similarities were found in the number of actors and their distribution across sectors, but considerable variation was found in the types and locations of environmental stewardship activities, and in the number and distribution of network ties in the networks of each city. Baltimore's stewardship information network was 30% more centralized than Seattle's. In Baltimore, the ten most well-connected organizations held 53% of the ties related to providing information about the local environment. Both cities had a substantial number of organizations that had no ties to any other in the information network. In Baltimore, 15% of the network was disconnected. In Seattle, 13% of the network was disconnected. Locations of stewardship activities were also studied. Social network and spatial regression analyses were used to explore relationships among variations in neighborhood land cover and network measures. Both the number of organizations and the number of ties between them correlated significantly with the percentage of tree canopy in Baltimore neighborhoods. Seattle had similar trends, but the relationship appeared weaker.


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

Research Products

Publications are listed in reverse chronological order.

All data associated with this research is archived on the BES website. is a multi-city research portal, which includes content from this research in Baltimore and Seattle. is an interactive map of Baltimore's community-managed open spaces, which includes some data from this research and will be a platform to display spatial data as they are digitized.

Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Fisher, Dana R.; Connolly, James J.T.; Johnson, Michelle L.; Sonti, Nancy F.; Locke, Dexter H.; Westphal, Lynne M.; LeBlanc Fisher, Cherie; Grove, J. Morgan; Romolini, Michele; Blahna, Dale J.; Wolf, Kathleen L. 2016. Stewardship mapping and assessment project: a framework for understanding community-based environmental stewardship. Gen. Tech. Rep. 156. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 134 p.

Romolini, M.; Dalton, S.E.; Grove, J.M. 2015. Environmental governance of the sustainable city: examining changes in stewardship networks in the Gwynns Falls watershed.

Romolini, Michele; Grove, J. Morgan; Locke, Dexter H. 2013. Assessing and comparing relationships between urban environmental stewardship networks and land cover in Baltimore and Seattle. Landscape and Urban Planning. 120: 190-207.

Wolf, K.L.; Blahna, D.; Brinkley, W.; Romolini, M. 2013. Environmental Stewardship Footprint Research: Linking Human Agency and Ecosystem Health in the Puget Sound Region. Urban Ecosystems 16: 13-32.

Romolini, M.; Brinkley, W.; Wolf, K. 2012. What is Urban Environmental Stewardship? Constructing a Practitioner Derived Framework. Res. Note PNW-RN-566. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 41 p.


Last Modified: January 4, 2018