NJ Senate Passes NJ School of Conservation Bill to Give Control to Friends of NJSOC

Media Contacts
Doug O'Malley

State Director, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center

Trenton – The New Jersey State Senate voted this afternoon to pass S438 (Smith/Codey) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 40-0 which will transfer management to the New Jersey School of Conversation from Montclair State University to the Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC). This will allow the Friends of NJSOC to restore and fully reopen the NJSOC as a year-round residential environmental education center. NJSOC is a 300-acre environmental education center campus located in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County, incorporated in 1949 and then left in the lurch with the sudden closure by Montclair State University in the early days of the pandemic.

The Friends are the preferred manager of the NJSOC due to their singular focus and sole commitment to the mission of the NJSOC; their diverse Board with partners in the academic, service, finance, legal and camping professions, and a sustainable financial structure that will support the NJSOC in perpetuity. Since assuming program responsibility in April 2021 through a limited access agreement with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Friends have completed a full inventory of equipment and buildings on the campus; conducted massive cleanups of the grounds; held three teacher training workshops; provided public programming attended by more than 600 residents; carried out twice weekly safety inspections; welcomed back one elementary school with two more scheduled next month and more in the Fall; received a $1 million grant in aid from the NJ Legislature for facility repairs and maintenance, and completed a facilities/conditions report to guide the restoration. 

Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey, and a member of the advisory board for the Friends of the NJ School of Conservation, released the following statement:

“The NJ School of Conservation is an environmental and education oasis tucked into the rolling hills of Stokes State Forest. But its future has been tenuous throughout the pandemic after the school was left in the lurch with the sudden decision by Montclair State to pull funding in the early days of the pandemic. The State Senate vote today is a vote for a future where the NJ School of Conservation will be able to expand its vision of serving students and researchers across the state and place the responsibility of the school on its most steadfast champion – the Friends of the NJ School of Conservation. Environment New Jersey thanks the amazing leadership of the Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation and the leadership of Sen. Bob Smith and Governor Dick Codey for being prime co-sponsors of this legislation. We urge  Gov. Murphy to sign this bill into law on the grounds of the New Jersey School of Conservation.”