UNION COUNTY. Union County residents are encouraged to become environmental stewards and learn how to create conservation projects in their communities. The program provides specific steps for the public to have a positive effect on the local ecosystem.
Alexander Mirabella, chairperson of the commissioner board, stated that whether you are looking for a project, or have one in progress, the Environmental Stewards program is able to help you create an effective plan of action that makes a difference in the Union County community.
Rutgers Cooperative Extension offers the Environmental Stewards program in New Jersey. It is a part of Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. In collaboration with county governments, It is intended to make university-based information accessible to local communities. The commissioner board supports it in Union County.
Recent Environmental Stewards Projects in Union County include a collaboration between the Department of Parks and Recreation in order to collect data about the impact of the emerald ash beetle on tree populations in Union County, the creation of a program for children in New Providence encouraging them to learn more about environmental conservation, and a new Adopt a Storm Drain project for Westfield to prevent debris from reaching the Rahway River.
Some other recent examples include:
Clearing invasive plants, and planting native trees at the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve (Princeton).
For distribution in Burlington and Mercer counties, 1,000 homes will be built for native bees using bamboo kits.
In Burlington County, organizing a symposium for municipal leaders on the effects of planning and zoning.
The Environmental Stewards Program consists of weekly classes and field trips in winter and spring. Each participant also chooses an issue of local environmental concern as an internship project.
Internships offer opportunities to gain real-world experience while building relationships with the community.
Participants are awarded certification as environmental stewards upon completion of the internship and classes.
Zoom sessions, in-person instruction and field trips are all part of this year’s classes. Electives can also be requested. The program will include topics such as climate change, green infrastructure and environmental justice.
Each class will feature a Rutgers University researcher or a representative from the nonprofit sector. The 2022 class will start on Tuesday, January 25, and continue on Tuesdays until May 17. Each class will last from 5:30-8 p.m.
Since 2005, more that 900 New Jersey residents received Environmental Steward Certification. Many continue to make an impact in their communities.
To learn more about the Environmental Stewards volunteer program and to sign up for classes, visit envirostewards.rutgers.edu.
Photos by Tina Casey