Northern Research Station News Releases

Forest Service Project Linking People, Environmental Non-profits

Philadelphia, PA, January 30, 2013 - From bands of volunteers in individual neighborhoods to organizations serving the entire city, civic groups are working hard to conserve Philadelphia’s trees, water, and open spaces. In a project that will literally put these groups on a map, the U.S. Forest Service is seeking to improve visibility and connections among civic environmental groups.

The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project, or STEW-Map, was created by a team of Forest Service and university scientists in New York City to document connections among local civic groups dedicated to conserving, managing, monitoring, advocating for, and educating the public about local environments. Through STEW-Map, the Philadelphia Field Station, which is part of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, will generate a database and online map revealing where and how groups are working across the city. Similar projects are also being established in Chicago, Baltimore and Seattle.

“Projects like STEW-Map are the heart of the Philadelphia Field Station,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station. “The Field Station exists to develop sound science that is relevant to Philadelphia’s natural resources, as well as to connect and involve people in stewardship of these resources.”

“This is a tool to connect people,” according to Philadelphia Field Station Coordinator Sarah Low. “Some of the smaller organizations in Philadelphia are as effective as the larger groups, and establishing these connections could lead to some interesting outcomes for urban natural resources.”

A national nonprofit crowdfunding platform for urban environmental projects, ioby (think of the opposite of NIMBY) uses STEW-Map to connect people in New York City with community-led, neighbor-funded environmental projects in their neighborhoods. “STEW-Map is incredibly important to our emerging field,” said Erin Barnes, ioby’s co-founder and executive director. “It's a great tool for us to use, and it stands alone as a data collection tool on the landscape of stewardship groups that build strong neighborhoods.”

A longtime resident of Philadelphia, Low describes the city as having a strong but largely undocumented grassroots network of groups dedicated to conserving urban trees, water and open space. A completed STEW-Map for the city will reveal where conservation projects are happening as well as where they are not happening, and it will reveal links between groups that could result in filling some of those gaps.

STEW-Map will begin with an outreach effort to identify community organizations and describe what they do and where they work. Low expects to have initial results available later this year.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of our nation’s forests; 850 million acres including 100 million acres of urban forests where most Americans live. The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.

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Last modified: January 30, 2013