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Putting Natural Resource Stewardship on the Map in NYC

Map of stewardship groups in NYC area New York City, August 4, 2017 - Scientists with the USDA Forest Service are launching a project that connects a powerful force in restoring urban landscapes, building neighborhoods and kindling civic change: urban natural resource stewards.

In collaboration with the New York City Mayor’s Office and the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Forest Service’s New York City Urban Field Station has launched the next phase of the Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP) in the New York region, a project that puts stewardship on the map, literally.  Researchers are asking groups that take care of the local environment to complete a survey that will be used to update the STEW-MAP database. Surveys can be requested by emailing: stewmap.ufs@gmail.com

STEW-MAP is a mapping tool and database of environmental stewardship groups – large and small, from formal nonprofits to grassroots groups – across the greater New York City metro area. It was designed to help understand and strengthen the civic capacity to care for the natural resources of New York’s neghborhoods. In ‘One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City,’ Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged that New York City is only as strong as its neighborhoods are –civic groups and social networks are a crucial part of the lifeblood of the city and are the stewards of our community resources.

“To fulfill the Forest Service’s mission to ‘care for the land and serve people,’ we work with many partners to achieve research that informs urban natural resources stewardship,” said Tony Ferguson, Director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “To be relevant in improving people's lives throughout the rural to urban land gradient, we need to improve the health of the natural environment.”

STEW-MAP was launched in 2007 by convening dozens of stewardship organizations and leaders to provide information for the first citywide database and publicly accessible online map of more than 500 civic groups engaging in environmental projects. STEW-MAP has been used by government and civic groups alike to enhance collaboration, to identify opportunities to better engage New Yorkers, and to enhance the capacity of community stewards. This tool supports civic participation, increase neighborhoods’ social cohesion, and support requests for funding and programming.

In May 2017, a new STEW-MAP survey was sent to over 12,000 groups from more than 65 data providers in an effort to further facilitate cross-sector dialogue, collaboration, and support among the city’s many stewardship groups.

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has a long history partnering with the Forest Service through the New York City Urban Field Station, which was founded in 2006. “Our work at the Field Station marries research and application, and STEW-MAP exemplifies this partnership by providing data on the civic groups that help take care of our parks, streets, waterfronts, and other shared spaces,” said  Jennifer Greenfeld, Assistant Commissioner for Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources. “We know that the information gained through STEW-MAP 2017 will be crucial in our work as we continue to manage and enhance the Parks Department’s over 10,000 acres of green spaces, from street trees to forests.”

 “Working with the NYC Urban Field Station has allowed the Gowanus Canal Conservancy to form partnerships and collaborations with other stewards and civic groups we might not have otherwise known about,” said Andrea Parker, Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “Using STEW-MAP has helped us understand how our organization fits into the larger NYC stewardship community, connected us to other community organizations, and taught us about the way others work with city agencies and non-profits.”

While local organizations see STEW-MAP as a tool for connecting with others, city leaders see it as a tool for harnessing the larger stewardship community to confront a wide range of issues. “Climate change is perhaps the toughest challenge New York City has yet to face. Countering it will require collaboration and partnership at all levels of our society,” said Jainey Bavishi, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. “The STEW-MAP project will help not only public agencies, but also civic groups and our residents better connect on resiliency and environmental stewardship efforts, ultimately creating a broader network of responders to meet the challenge of climate change.”

Since 2007, STEW-MAP has expanded nationally and internationally.  STEW-MAP projects are currently under way in Baltimore; Philadelphia; Seattle; Chicago; Portland, Maine Region; Los Angeles; North Kona and South Kohala in Hawaii; Paris, France; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Valledupar, Colombia.

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The mission of the 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.

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The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 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 manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains world-renowned forestry research and wildland fire management organizations. National forests and grasslands contribute more than $30 billion to the American economy annually and support nearly 360,000 jobs. These lands also provide 30 percent of the nation's surface drinking water to cities and rural communities; approximately 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).


Last modified: August 4, 2017