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The Sourland Conservancy is creating an innovative program for local residents called Sourland Stewards. The program brings materials and experiences to the doors of Sourland residents to help them explore ways to connect with nature as informed stewards.

“We’re encouraging practices to protect the rich diversity of animal and plant species and to preserve water resources within the Sourlands,” said Caroline Katmann, executive director of the Sourland Conservancy.

The Sourland Stewards program offers several ways of learning within a stewardship community, including inspiring hikes exploring the deep ecology of our region, programs with experts on stewardship topics from native plants to water conservation to deer management, and stewardship publications with substance and user-friendly approaches.

Residents of the Sourland region who participate will have the opportunity to be recognized as “Sourland Stewards” and to talk, compare notes, and show off their projects on social networks and at special events.

Sourland Stewards will be providing “nature experiences” as an entryway into the program. These experiences will take place during a series of spring and summer hikes and other outdoor experiences, and will provide opportunities for residents to connect with nature in ways that will motivate them to act as good stewards of the land.

Also, there is a social component that will encourage interaction between stewards as well as a Sourland Stewards Program’s nature advisor. Residents will have opportunities to share their stewardship challenges and successes with each other via social media and through visits to each other’s properties to see places where lawns have been converted to meadows, or where rain gardens have been successfully created and so on.

Jared Rosenbaum, of Wild Ridge Plants and a naturalist with a love for the Sourlands, is working together with Sourland Conservancy board, staff, and volunteers to craft this new program, which is partially funded with generous support from a 2014 Watershed Institute grant.

“When people connect to the rest of the natural world in an emotional and personal way, they become heartfelt stewards,” said Jared Rosenbaum. “Stewardship is a young art — this notion that we can be caretakers of the natural world and enrich ourselves and the wild world through it. We’ll be offering lots of hikes, classes, and, even better, a community within which to share ideas and successes.”

The Sourland Stewards program follows on the heels of the acclaimed Living In The Sourlands booklet sent to all residents, which featured locally relevant stewardship information and has become a go-to reference for many residents.

“We’ve even heard stories of folks leaving a copy of Living In The Sourlands for new homeowners in the Sourlands when they’ve sold a home, just to help orient new residents to the uniqueness of the area,” said Katmann. “We’re excited to build on the momentum towards stewardship and the intense commitment of residents to the Sourlands with this new program.”

A schedule of events is forthcoming, and other program materials will be released throughout the year. To learn more, interested people can sign up for Sourland Conservancy eNewsletters to receive additional info and announcements about this program at www.sourland.org. The mission of the Sourland Conservancy is to protect the ecological integrity, historic resources and special character of the Sourland Mountain region.

Image credit: Jared Rosenbaum

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. She and her mostly merry gang live in the charming town of Hopewell Boro lovingly maintaining their very old house. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with mild germaphobia, excessive self-reflection, enthusiastic television viewing, and misguided adventures in random hobbies.

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