STEW-MAP: The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project
What is STEW-MAP?
Across the country, people are working together to plant and care for trees, organize community gardens, remove litter, plan river cleanups, and many other community greening efforts. Local volunteer groups and NGOs are working together to create stronger, healthier, greener, and more resilient communities -- they are the stewards of their local environment. These acts of stewardship critically contribute to the care of natural resources and the well-being of communities across urban and rural areas. Knowing about the individuals and groups caring for natural resources provides the potential to leverage stewardship capacity in powerful ways for governments, non-profits, and other organizations to achieve outcomes that would otherwise be impossible with finite resources.
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?
STEW-MAP can help support agency aims around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as it was designed to identify active agents of change working in vulnerable communities, to acknowledge the work of informal and grassroots groups, and to extend potential partnerships “beyond the known knowns”. It can also be used to identify “stewardship gaps” -- areas that are underserved by active environmental stewardship and engagement. STEW-MAP utilizes methodologies to identify new and existing organizations working across a landscape and depicts strategic networks, stewardship gaps, and overlaps in activity.
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.
- Understanding resource deserts: The Baltimore Department of Public Works utilized STEW-MAP data to better understand where there were “resource deserts”, or areas where there were fewer stewardship groups and established social networks, and targeted environmental programming in these areas.
- Partnership Mapping: The Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming used the STEW-MAP process to better understand who within their agency develops and manages their external partnerships in order to foster effective and consistent relationships even in a division with high staff turnover.
- Deeping local connections: Researchers and stewards and O’ahu, Hawaii, used the STEW-MAP data collection process as an opportunity to create space for broadly inclusive civic groups to connect and discuss shared intentions and goals. New coalitions focused on local environmental issues such as Rapid Ohia Death and fire management formed because of this process.
STEW-MAP Data Include:
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.
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 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.
News, Events, and More
- April 29, 2021, The Nature of Cities
- February 26, 2021, The Nature of Cities Festival
- February 26, 2021, The Nature of Cities Festival
- December 20, 2020, Nature of Cities
- December 1, 2020, Nature of Cities
- December 1, 2020, The Nature of Cities
- September 24, 2020, The Nature of Cities Blog
- Activating urban environments as social infrastructure through civic stewardship
- Working together: the roles of geographic proximity, homophilic organizational characteristics, and neighborhood context in civic stewardship collaboration networks in Philadelphia and New York City
- Context matters: influence of organizational, environmental, and social factors on civic environmental stewardship group intensity
- STEW-MAP in the New York City region: survey results of the Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project June, 2019
- A Social-ecological framework for urban stewardship network research to promote sustainable and resilient cities June 9, 2017
- Toward an understanding of citywide urban environmental governance: An examination of stewardship networks in Baltimore and Seattle September 9, 2016
- Recognizing Stewardship Practices as Indicators of Social Resilience: In Living Memorials and in a Community Garden August 12, 2016
- Stewardship mapping and assessment project: a framework for understanding community-based environmental stewardship February 25, 2016
- Mixed methods analysis of urban environmental stewardship networks August 31, 2015