Dancer bill would name new management team for environmental education school

Dancer bill would name new management team for environmental education school

TRENTON, N.J. – The nation’s oldest and largest university-based environmental education facility may soon have new management under a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer. The bill was released from the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Monday.

Since 1981, Montclair State University with the Department of Environmental Protection has managed the New Jersey School of Conservation, located on 240 acres in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County. Dancer’s bill (A3149) names the Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization launched in March 1987, as manager.

“The Friends has been an indispensable asset to the running of the school, and stepped in when Montclair found it was no longer viable to keep the school open during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dancer (R-Ocean) said. “They submitted a plan to keep the school running. It will be exciting to witness what this new chapter brings to the school and the thousands of teachers and students who benefit from it.”

The Friends has shifted its focus to restoration, preservation and advocacy in recent years. With Montclair out, at the height the pandemic, they reopened the school on a limited basis in the summer of 2020 and secured $1 million from the state Legislature for repairs at some of the 55 buildings that comprise the campus. Partnering with Rutgers University, Ramapo College and Sussex County Community College, the organization plans to upgrade and transform the school into a premier training and research facility.

Dancer’s bill requires the Friends to submit a financial statement annually to the Department of Education, which would be responsible for funding the school. Its plan proposes a $1.72 million budget by FY2025.

“The New Jersey School of Conservation has provided valuable environmental education programs for decades,” Dancer added. “My bill will ensure the school continues to provide that for years to come.”