Urban environmental stewardship activities are on the rise in cities throughout the Northeast. Groups participating in stewardship activities range in age, size, and geography and represent an increasingly complex and dynamic arrangement of civil society, government and business sectors. To better understand the structure, function and network of these community-based urban land managers, an assessment was conducted in 2004 by the research subcommittee of the Urban Ecology Collaborative. The goal of the assessment was to better understand the role of stewardship organizations engaged in urban ecology initiatives in selected major cities in the Northeastern U.S.: Boston, New Haven, New York City, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. A total of 135 active organizations participated in this assessment. Findings include the discovery of a dynamic social network operating within cities, and a reserve of social capital and expertise that could be better utilized. Although often not the primary land owner, stewardship groups take an increasingly significant responsibility for a wide range of land use types including street and riparian corridors, vacant lots, public parks and gardens, green roofs, etc. Responsibilities include the delivery of public programs as well as daily maintenance and fundraising support. While most of the environmental stewardship organizations operate on staffs of zero or fewer than ten, with small cohorts of community volunteers, there is a significant difference in the total amount of program funding. Nearly all respondents agree that committed resources are scarce and insufficient with stewards relying upon and potentially competing for individual donations, local foundations, and municipal support. This makes it a challenge for the groups to grow beyond their current capacity and to develop long-term programs critical to resource management and education. It also fragments groups, making it difficult for planners and property owners to work in partnership with them. The organizational networks are self-contained and do not include business or even legal groups, which may point to a gap between stewardship and environmental justice organizations.

Photographs of Site Types.pdf (8102 kB)
Photographs of Site Types