Jay Watson, vice president, D&R Greenway Land Trust; Lisa Wolff, executive director FoHVOS; Renee Jones, NJDEP Green Acre Program; and Anne Heasly, Sustainable Jersey. (Photo by Benoit Cornet.)

A little history: Earth Day was founded by U. S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his work.

Today, Earth Day is more important than ever. The earth provides food to give us sustenance but the trees, plants, air and water also bestow energy for the entire ecosystem, which literally and figuratively gives us life. The quality of life in Hopewell Valley is better because the community supports and appreciates our earth. Earth Day celebrations abound in our schools, nonprofit organizations, corporations and in our hearts.

Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space led clean-up days on land and participated in Earth Day celebrations at Bloomberg, Church and Dwight, and Bear Tavern Elementary school. The Watershed led stream clean-ups and educational activities. Lawrence Hopewell Trail led Earth Day activities for Bristol-Myers Squibb. D&R Greenway Trust partnered with the Hopewell Valley Historical Society to unveil a sign and call attention to the history of the land at St. Michaels Farm Preserve.

Municipal leaders attended many of these events. The schools announced the tremendous number of students taking a pledge to support the environment.

Superintendent Tom Smith shared that their Eco-Warriors will be recognized at their May 20 Board of Education meeting. Last year, they removed plastic straws and stirrers in school cafeterias. This year, students have been encouraged to use reusable water bottles and fill them at one of the more than 50 bottle-filling stations in our schools, resulting in decreased bottled water sales in the cafeterias.

While Earth Day provides an opportunity raise awareness of the need to appreciate the abundance that the earth provides, the real work must take place the remaining days of the year for everyone to reduce, reuse and recycle (especially reduce!)

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Last February, FoHVOS announced it has achieved national recognition, joining a network of over 400 accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work.

“We are a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program,” said Daniel Rubenstein, FoHVOS Board President. “Our strength means special places—such as the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain—will be protected forever, making Hopewell Valley an even greater place for us and our children.”

The real power behind FoHVOS is our desire to partner with the greater community to achieve lasting results. Our last two major preservations—Mount Rose and Woosamonsa Ridge—were led by NJCF and D&R Greenway, respectively, and both accredited land trusts. Under FoHVOS Community Conservation, we have joined forces with local municipalities, corporations, NGOs, and homeowner associations. Collaboration is our secret to success. Partnering with LTA on accreditation is a crowning achievement.

On April 18, FoHVOS held an Earth Day celebration at Gravity Hill Barn in Titusville that recognized all who helped with the accreditation. Honored were Jay Watson, D&R Greenway Land Trust, Renee Jones, NJ DEP – Green Acres, and Anne Heasly, Sustainable Jersey. Many municipal leaders, including District 15 Assembly members Anthony Verrelli and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson came out to offer their congratulations.

Lisa Wolff is the executive director of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. Email: lwolff@fohvos.org.