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New York City Urban Field Station

[photo:] Volunteers at the former Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition Memorial Garden. Photo courtesy of: Living Memorials Project National Registry
The New York Urban Field Station is a partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation that is improving the quality of life in urban areas by conducting and supporting research about social-ecological systems and natural resource management.

The New York City Urban Field Station partnership is a catalyst for urban environmental stewardship with activities including:

  • Promoting natural resource stewardship and ecological literacy to advance human well-being in New York City, the country’s largest and most diverse metropolitan area. 
  • Partnering with land managers to create innovative “research in action” programs that support urban ecosystems.
  • Conducting comparative research and sharing findings with counterparts in other metropolitan regions in the United States and globally.
  • Linking to a growing network of U.S. Forest Service scientists and university cooperators focused on urban research.

Since its founding in 2006, the NYC Urban Field Station has engaged more than 50 non-profit, academic, and government partners creating innovative “research in action” programs to support urban ecosystem management and sustainability initiatives in New York City.


The Forest Service has partnered with the New York City Parks & Recreation Department to make this project a success.

Acres Affected
83,000 acres of open space in NYC plus countless additional acres throughout the city and beyond
Base Annual Budget of the NYC Urban Field Station



Accomplishments of the New York City Urban Field Station include:

  • With university researchers, created STEW-MAP (Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project) to fill the gap in understanding about how individual citizens, non-profit organizations, businesses, and governments work together as environmental stewards.
  • With Forest Service colleagues from other locations, developed a set of Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) Prioritization tools that combine urban ecological information at socially meaningful scales based on stakeholder provided criteria.
  • Serve as members of the MillionTreesNYC advisory committee as well as the Research & Evaluation and Tree Planting & Stewardship subcommittees


Research on health and well-being conducted at the New York City Urban Field Station helps policy-makers, practitioners, and scientists understand the complex linkages between built, natural, and human systems in New York City and beyond.  Stewardship is a core focus of research via the STEW-Map study in New York City, and STEW-Map is being replicated in Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore and, most recently, Philadelphia.

Lessons Learned

More than 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, and urban natural resources are crucial to health and livability in cities and suburbs. The New York City Urban Field Station has been successful in engaging urban natural resource managers to embrace scientific thinking in their daily operations and decision-making. At the same time, Urban Field Station staff members are working alongside practitioners in large-scale, city-wide campaigns such as MillionTreesNYC and the Natural Areas Conservancy Ecological Assessment to advance science and practice.

[photo:] David Maddox, Director of Science, NYC Natural Areas Conservancy.Our partnership with USFS around the Urban Field Station has been tremendous. We benefit from broad access to ideas and collaborative work that working alone would be difficult to achieve. This goes double for our close work with the USFS social scientists, who lead us into new territory of ideas that immensely strengthen not just the direct stewardship of the city’s natural areas, but the ways we think about and communicate their value to the people of New York. As I would say with any great relationship: “We couldn’t do it without you.”
--David Maddox, Director of Science, NYC Natural Areas Conservancy

Partner Organizations

Last Modified: July 31, 2019