FRIENDS OF NEW JERSEY CONSERVATION SCHOOL CELEBRATE STATE FUNDING TO SUPPORT SCHOOL RESTORATION
Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) are delighted to hear that the state budget signed by Governor Murphy today includes $ 1 million in funding to keep the school open and operational.
Last year, Montclair State University abruptly shut down the NJSOC, turned the facility over to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and suspended all programs citing financial hardship due to the pandemic.
Since then, the Friends of the NJSOC have negotiated a limited access agreement with the NJDEP, allowing them to offer five educational and public programs per month. NJSOC’s programs were well attended and environmentalists, faculty, students and political leaders fought to have funding for the school restored.
“Friends of the NJSOC are very grateful to Senator Bob Smith and Assembly Member John McKeon for sponsoring this budget resolution and for supporting our efforts to restore the NJSOC. We would also like to thank Governor Phil Murphy for his support of this resolution, and the NJDEP for their incredible partnership with Friends over the past year, ” said Kerry Kirk Pflugh, president of Friends of NJSOC. “We were delighted to learn that the school had received $ 1 million in funding to continue our programming. “
“Educating the public, and in particular our youth, about our environmental challenges and opportunities – such as dealing with the realities of climate change, achieving environmental equity and protecting natural resources – is the cornerstone of our mission at New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, “mentioned DEP Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “We are delighted that the New Jersey School of Conservation – for decades a bulwark of environmental education – can continue to empower New Jersey residents and others to become better stewards of the environment we share. “
“From threats to Garden State’s biodiversity to the impacts of climate change, the New Jersey School of Conservation is at the forefront of educating the next generation of environmental leaders and scientists,” said Bob Smith, D-Piscataway and Chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “As a former professor of environmental science, I am proud to sponsor and, along with my colleagues and advocates, help secure funding for the important environmental education work of 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 MP John McKeon, D-West Orange and member of the Budget Committee and Chairman of the Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance. “This is why I am fighting for funds to keep exceptional public programs and research running. “
“The school is essential for our students to experience conservation firsthand, 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 Assembly Member 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 thumbs up to the lawmakers who helped make this happen,” said Julia Somers, Friends of NJSOC Advisory Board Member 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 essential to help maintain a high quality of life for all. state residents.
“There are few places in New Jersey that offer such a deep history of environmental conservation and education as the NJ School of the Conversation. The sudden closure of the school during the pandemic by Montclair State after decades of public funding was a real blow, ”said Doug O’Malley, Director of the New Jersey Environment. “This funding should be seen as a down payment to get the school back on its feet and do what it does best – bringing kids across the state into nature to learn and away from their screens. We are grateful for the legislative leadership of Senator Smith and Member of the Assembly McKeon in making this happen. “
“The School of Conservation is a New Jersey gem that is vital for research, discovery and renewal of the environment,” said Jennifer Coffey, Director General of ANJEC. “It’s an ark that stretches through time from FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps to the present day and offers us the opportunity to learn from nature to face current challenges and embrace wonder. It is our responsibility to continue, and I am delighted to see that the New Jersey Legislature is striving to do just that.
Other sponsors of the budget resolution were MP Gordon Johnson (LD-37), MP Andrew Zwicker (LD-16), MP Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (LD-15), MP Daniel Benson (LD-14) and MP 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 possibility of resuming school programming and summer camps as soon as possible. In addition, a timeline for initiating critical infrastructure needs will be determined.
The New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. It was officially established as a residential outdoor education center in 1949 by former Governor Alfred Driscoll. In 1981, Governor Brendan T. Byrne signed a law designating that the 240-acre NJSOC would be used in perpetuity as a school for the study of the environment in the field.
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