Environmental stewardship refers to the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through active participation in conservation efforts and sustainable practices by individuals, small groups, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and other collective networks. Aldo Leopold (1887–1949) championed environmental stewardship in land ethics, exploring the ethical implications of "dealing with man's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it."[1]

Resilience-based ecosystem stewardship

Resilience-based ecosystem stewardship emphasizes resilience as an integral feature of responding to and interacting with the environment in a constantly changing world. Resilience refers to the ability of a system to recover from disturbance and return to its basic function and structure. For example, ecosystems do not serve as singular resources but rather are function-dependent in providing an array of ecosystem services. Additionally, this type of stewardship recognizes resource managers and management systems as influential and informed participants in the natural systems that are serviced by humans.

Roles of environmental stewards

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Based on pro-organizational stewardship theory principles, environmental stewards can be categorized into three roles: doers, donors, and practitioners.[citation needed]

Doers actively engage in environmental aid, such as volunteering for hands-on work like cleaning up oil spills. Donors support causes financially or through gifts in kind, including fundraising or personal donations. Practitioners work daily in environmental stewardship, acting as advocates in collaboration with various environmental agencies and groups. All three roles contribute to promoting environmental literacy and encouraging participation in conservation efforts.[2]

From a biocultural conservation perspective, Ricardo Rozzi and collaborators propose participatory intercultural approaches to earth stewardship.[3] This perspective emphasizes the role of long-term socio-ecological research (LTSER) sites in coordinating local initiatives with global networking and implementing culturally diverse earth stewardship forms.[4]

Examples of environmental stewardship

Many programs, partnerships, and funding initiatives have tried to implement environmental stewardship into the workings of society. Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP),[5] a partnership program overseen by the US Environmental Protection Agency, provides pesticide-user consultation to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and identify the detrimental impact these chemicals can have on social and environmental health.

In 2006, England placed environmental stewardship at the center of an agricultural incentives mechanism, encouraging cattle farmers to better manage their land, crops, animals, and material use.[6] The Environmental Stewardship Award was created as part of this initiative to highlight members whose actions exemplify alignment with environmental stewardship.[7]

Social science implications

Studies have explored the benefits of environmental stewardship in various contexts such as the evaluation, modeling, and integration into policy, system management, and urban planning. One study examined how social attributes of environmental stewardship can be used to reconfigure local conservation efforts.[8] Social ties to environmental stewardship are emphasized by the National Recreation and Park Association's efforts to place environmental stewardship at the forefront of childhood development and youths' consciousness of the outdoors.[9] Practicing environmental stewardship has also been suggested as an effective mental health treatment and natural therapy.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Leopold, Aldo (1949). A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There.
  2. ^ National Research Council. (2008). Increasing Capacity for Stewardship of Oceans and Coasts. The National Academic Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington DC 20001.
  3. ^ Ricardo Rozzi, Stuart F. Chapin, J.Baird Callicott, Steward T.A. Pickett, Mary Power Juan J. Armesto, Roy H. May Jr (eds). 2015. Earth Stewardship: Linking Ecology and Ethics in Theory and Praxis. Series Ecology and Ethics. Springer, Dordrecht: The Netherlands.
  4. ^ Ricardo Rozzi and collaborators. 2012. Integrating ecology and environmental ethics: Earth stewardship in the southern end of the Americas. [BioScience 62(3): 226-236 https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/62/3/226/358404]
  5. ^ US EPA, OCSPP (2015-09-30). "Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP)". www.epa.gov. Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  6. ^ "Environmental Stewardship explained". InBrief.co.uk. Retrieved 2022-05-30.
  7. ^ "Environmental Stewardship - About". Environmental Stewardship. Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  8. ^ Bennett, Nathan J.; Whitty, Tara S.; Finkbeiner, Elena; Pittman, Jeremy; Bassett, Hannah; Gelcich, Stefan; Allison, Edward H. (April 2018). "Environmental Stewardship: A Conceptual Review and Analytical Framework". Environmental Management. 61 (4): 597–614. Bibcode:2018EnMan..61..597B. doi:10.1007/s00267-017-0993-2. ISSN 0364-152X. PMC 5849669. PMID 29387947.
  9. ^ "Cultivating Environmental Stewardship | National Recreation and Park Association". www.nrpa.org. Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  10. ^ Alexander, Gina K.; Brooks, Vicki (2022-02-01). "Nature-based therapeutics: A collaborative research agenda promoting equitable access and environmental stewardship". Collegian. 29 (1): 119–124. doi:10.1016/j.colegn.2021.03.001. ISSN 1322-7696. PMC 8797382. PMID 35125907.