STEW-MAP: The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project

NYC Parks Gardener landscaping a city park. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks.

What is Stewardship?

Stewardship is defined as the activity or job of protecting, taking care of, or being responsible for something.

Natural resource stewardship refers to people’s efforts to take care of the natural world. These stewardship activities may take place on public or private lands and include actions such as tree planting and/or pruning, community gardening, watershed restoration, removal of litter or invasive species, creation of green public spaces or other community greening efforts, as well as activities that help conserve, improve, or address land, water, or air quality issues. STEW-MAP defines stewardship as consisting of six functions: conservation, management, education, advocacy, monitoring, and transformation.

Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.
Research findings have begun to illuminate the transformative power of natural resources stewardship as an activity that naturally cultivates and strengthens civic engagement. This relationship has powerful implications for individual and community health and well-being, as well as for the health and well-being of our democracy. In addition, leveraging stewardship interest and capacity can be a powerful way for governments, non-profits, and other organizations to achieve goals and outcomes that would otherwise be improbable or impossible with finite resources.

Research has shown that stewardship can help achieve the following objectives:

  • Provides a means by which individuals and communities contribute to a purpose, and to the beauty and health of their environment.
  • Serves as an outward cue of care and concern, and can catalyze change and investment by internal and external forces in a community.
  • Serves as a form of empowerment, especially in communities that have experienced hardship, economic divestment, or natural disasters.
  • Plays a key role in helping communities recover from natural disturbances and human-caused disasters.
  • Creates benefits that extend into the future by building and strengthening communities.

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Last modified: September 10, 2020