Under New Jersey Law, a municipality can pass an ordinance to establish an environmental commission. Composed of five to seven residents who serve as volunteers, Environmental Commissions advise local governments and act as advisors and advocates for environmental problems and opportunities. They inform elected officials and the public, serve on committees, research issues, develop educational programs and advocate for sound environmental policies.
The members of the Environmental Commission are appointed by Municipal officials. New Jersey legislation attempts to bridge the gap between the municipal planning board and the environmental commision by requiring that one commission member also be a member of the planning board. Funding the operation of a commission is the responsibility of local governmment. Budges are ofent extremely modest; commissions survive on volunteer work by their members. At present the majority of New Jersey municipalities have an environmental commission.
Environmental commissions work on many issues, including open space preservation, smart growth, wetlands and water resource protection, green infrastructure, recycling and litter, environmental cleanups, wildlife habitat, energy efficiency and conservation and transportation. A growing number of urban environmental commissions are working with local officials to help revitalize their communities.
The ordinance establishing a conservation commission in Willingboro Township was passied in 1971 and is codified as municipal ordinance #2-21. Of particular note are the following passages which enumerate it's powers:
a) The promotion of the conservation and developement of the natural resources of the Township of Willingboro.
b) The planning, implementing, and informing of the general public with respect to local conservation programs.
c) The responsibility to compile and maintain an index of all open areas publicly or privately owned, including marshland, swamps, and other wetlands.
d) The conduct of all appropriate research in the possible use or uses of open spaces in the Township of Willingboro.
e) The submission of recommendations to the Planning board of appropriate plans and programs for inclusion in the Township Master Plan, and for the development and use of said areas.
f) Preparation of advertisements, books, maps, charts and other appropriate materials necessary to the discharge of its duties and the distribution of the same.
g) To act as a coordinating agency in the community with respect to conservation matters and as a liaison between local conservation needs and the regional, state, and federal agencies responsible for administering to those needs.
* In 1973 SEction 2-21 was amended as follows: "... to the extent thatwhere the phrase or term 'conservation commission' is utilized, substituted therefore shall be the phrased or term 'environmental commission' Ordinance #9-1973.
Environmental commissions have a primary duty to provide the body of knowledge required to evaluate the needs of the municipality as they relate to environmental quality.