FRIENDS OF NEW JERSEY SCHOOL OF CONSERVATION CELEBRATE STATE FUNDING TO SUPPORT RESTORATION OF SCHOOL
Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) are thrilled after receiving news that the state budget signed by Governor Murphy today includes $1 million in funding to keep the school open and operating.
Last year, Montclair State University abruptly closed the NJSOC, turned the facility over to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and suspended all programming citing financial hardship due to the pandemic.
Since then, the Friends of the NJSOC negotiated a limited access agreement with NJDEP, allowing them the ability to offer five education and public programs a month. The NJSOC programs have been well attended, and environmentalists, professors, students, and political leaders have been fighting to have the school’s funding restored.
“The Friends of NJSOC are so grateful to Senator Bob Smith and Assemblyman John McKeon for sponsoring this budget resolution and supporting our efforts to restore the NJSOC. We would also like to thank Governor Phil Murphy for supporting this resolution, and the NJDEP for their incredible partnership with the Friends over the last year,” said Kerry Kirk Pflugh, president of the Friends of the NJSOC. “We were thrilled when we heard the news that the school had received $1 million in funding to continue our programming.”
“Educating the public, and especially our youth, about our environmental challenges and opportunities – such as confronting the realities of climate change, achieving environmental equity, and protecting natural resources – is a cornerstone of our mission at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” said DEP Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “We are excited that the New Jersey School of Conservation – for decades a bulwark for environmental education – will be able to continue enabling New Jersey residents and others to become better stewards of the environment we share.”
“From threats to the Garden state’s biodiversity to the impacts of climate change, the New Jersey School of Conservation is on the front lines of educating the next generation of environmental leaders and scientists,” said Bob Smith, D-Piscataway and Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “As a former Environmental Science Professor, I am proud to sponsor, and together with my colleagues and advocates, helped secure funding for the important environmental education work at the New Jersey School of Conservation.”
“I had the pleasure of visiting the school recently and continue to be impressed with this educational treasure,” said Assemblyman John McKeon, D-West Orange and member of the Budget Committee and Chair of the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. “That’s why I am fighting to secure funding to keep the exceptional public programs and research up and running.”
“The School is critical for our students to experience conservation first hand, for scientists to conduct research, and for the public to learn about environmental protection,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of New Jersey LCV. “We are grateful to Assemblyman McKeon and Senator Smith for leading and sponsoring the budget resolution, and to the Governor and legislature for providing the $1 million funding.”
“A big shout out to the legislators who helped make this happen,” said Julia Somers, Advisory Board member of Friends of NJSOC and Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “Thank you! It is exciting that the legislature agrees and recognizes the importance of the New Jersey School of Conservation to the state. Education about our environment is critical to helping maintain a high quality of life for all the state’s residents.”
“There are few places in New Jersey that provide such a deep history of environmental conservation and education as the NJ School of the Conversation. The sudden shuttering of the School during the pandemic by Montclair State after decades of state funding was a true body blow,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. “This funding should be considered a down payment to get the School back up and running and doing what it does best – get kids from across the state into nature to learn from it and away from their screens. We are grateful for the legislative leadership from Senator Smith and Assemblyman McKeon to make this happen.”
“The School of Conservation is a New Jersey gem that is vital for environmental research, discovery, and renewal,” said Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director of ANJEC. “It’s an arch that stretches across time from FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps to now and offers us the opportunity to learn from nature to face current challenges and embrace wonder. It’s our responsibility to keep it going, and I’m so pleased to see that the New Jersey Legislature is working to do just that.”
Other sponsors of the budget resolution were Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (LD-37), Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (LD-16), Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (LD-15), Assemblyman Daniel Benson (LD-14), and Assemblyman Joe Danielson (LD-17), and Senator Kip Bateman (LD-16).
The Friends next steps are to meet with their advisors and the NJDEP to discuss the ability to resume school programming and summer camps as soon as possible. Additionally, a schedule to initiate critical infrastructure needs will be determined.
The New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. It was formally established as a residential outdoor education field center in 1949 by former Gov. Alfred Driscoll. In 1981, Governor Brendan T. Byrne signed legislation designating that the 240-acre NJSOC would be used in perpetuity as a school for environmental field study.