Dancer bill that names new management team for environmental education school passes Assembly

May 27, 2022

TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly on Thursday passed Assemblyman Ron Dancer’s bill that names new management to the nation’s oldest and largest university-based environmental education facility.

The Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation are named manager under Dancer’s legislation (A3149), taking the reins from Montclair State University, which had managed the New Jersey School of Conservation since 1981. The school is located on 240 acres in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County.

“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. “The organization 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, the Friends 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 noted he appreciates Montclair’s role in the transition. 

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.”

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for signing.

Located on a 240-acre tract of land in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County, New Jersey, the School of Conservation is our nation’s oldest and largest environmental education center. NJSOC has a long and celebrated history, beginning in 1949 when officials from the Department of Higher Education, college presidents, the Department of Conservation and Economic Development, politicians, and conservationists worked together to realize the promise of a world-class outdoor education center in an abandoned CCC camp. It played a key role in the development of the environmental education movement, and has served as a model for environmental centers throughout the world. The SOC’s resident programs and summer camps have served more than 400,000 students, teachers, masters and doctoral candidates, faculty and visiting professionals from every walk of life through the nearly 40,000 workshops and environmental education programs offered at the SOC over its 71-year history.

Above photos of past events from the Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation Facebook Page