New Jersey School of Conservation Celebrates State Funding To Support Restoration of School

Media Contacts

Environment New Jersey

Trenton — Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) are celebrating after receiving news that the state proposed budget 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. I also want to thank the Governor and the NJDEP as our partners,” 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 and assist in the maintenance of the buildings and property.”

“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 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.”

Others sponsors of the budget resolution were Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds Jackson, Assemblyman Daniel Benson, and Assemblyman Joe Danielson.

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.