The Rutgers Environmental Stewards program is a statewide partnership that teaches participants about the impacts of climate change and the important environmental issues affecting New Jersey enabling them to help solve local, community problems. The program is part of Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station which helps the diverse population of New Jersey adapt to a rapidly changing society and improve their lives and communities through an educational process that uses science-based knowledge.
Protecting New Jersey
Despite New Jersey’s dense population and urban land uses, there is much to protect. We are an ecologically diverse state with the highlands and ridge and valley section to the north, and piedmont and coastal plain to the south. These different physiographic regions provide an incredible variety of habitats and native species. This includes 2000 native plants, 62 land mammals, 85 freshwater fish, 480 birds, and 151 butterflies. Over 800 native plants are listed as endangered or species of concern due to invasive species, habitat loss, and overabundance of deer.
In the next 100 years New Jersey’s climate is predicted to change dramatically as the northeast is warming faster than other regions of the country. These changes threaten coastal communities, infrastructure, vital ecosystems, biodiversity, wildlife, agriculture, public health and the economy.
New Jersey’s municipal land use law facilitates how New Jersey’s 564 municipalities can plan and zone for development in their towns. The local zoning officer and the volunteer planning and zoning board members are responsible for interpreting the town’s master plan and ordinances. Therefore, it comes down to the people of New Jersey, most of whom are volunteers, to protect our natural resources and make sure that decisions are being made that protect the land, air, water, and ecological integrity of our state. The Rutgers Environmental Steward program equips participants with the knowledge needed to influence policy, implement green infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gases, improve habitat, build readiness plans and teach others.
Extending Our Reach
The Rutgers Environmental Stewards program fosters a network of volunteers and professionals with a sound understanding of our state’s ecology, land use principles, environmental regulations and the mechanisms that drive global and regional climate change. In addition to working with Rutgers Cooperative Extension to extend our research and educational capacity, Environmental Stewards give back to their own communities and protect their local environment.