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Jeff Tittel: DEP Must Stop Montclair University From Closing Conservation School

 

The President of Montclair State University notified the NJ DEP of the university’s intent to close the School and return the management of the property to the state, effective July 1, 2020. This could potentially result in permanent closure of the School of Conservation. The School of Conservation is located in Stokes State Forest and has been open since 1949 and managed by Montclair State University since 1981. The New Jersey Sierra Club have sent a letter to Commissioner McCabe asking for help and to prevent the school from closing.

“One of New Jersey’s first conservation schools is in jeopardy of closing. This would be a terrible loss for the state when it comes to environmental education. The School of Conservation is truly one of the best places in New Jersey to study pollution, climate, conservation and more in the middle of a major wildlife area. They have educated hundreds of thousands of students and provided tens of thousands of critical environmental education programs. However, Montclair State University now claims they can no longer afford to keep the school’s lights on,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We are about to lose one of most important conservation schools in New Jersey. This is why we sent a letter to the DEP. Since the DEP owns the building, it is more important than ever to prevent SOC from closing. It is critical, especially now because of climate change and the need for more environmental education.”

The School of Conservation occupies land and facilities owned by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and has been managed by Montclair State University since 1981. Legislation signed by Governor Byrne in 1981 established the School in perpetuity as an environmental field center and assigned its management to Montclair State. The legislation also provided an annual appropriation for the operation of the School.

“The SOC is a place where kids go for education and scientific research on forests and conservation. Its buildings were Civilian Conservation Corps. (CCC) camps when it was first set up in 1949. These camps had a goal to conserve natural resources while providing jobs,” said Tittel. “We have serious concerns that if the school closes, there will be vandalism, especially since its location is in the middle of the woods. In the past, sites like Kuser Mansion and High Point State Park were destroyed by vandalism. They had to be knocked down and we do not want that to happen to SOC.”

The SOC’s resident programs and summer camps have served more than 300,000 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. The school celebrated its 70th anniversary last year.

“Since the DEP and Green Acres own the camp, it is important that they step in and keep the programs going. First Lady Tammy is calling for climate education for the youth and The School of Conservation is the perfect place and a living laboratory. With the state’s intervention, it would allow for groups and colleges to come up with a plan to take over the school and keep it going,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.  

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