Cornell Climate Stewards Program: Building Capacity for Local Action by New York Communities
Publications: Success Stories - Extension (2022)


Jessica A. Kuonen, Hudson Estuary Resilience Specialist, NYSG E:, P: (845) 340-3983

New York Sea Grant expertise is helping to increase the climate action capacity of communities across New York State through a new Climate Stewards training program.

Kingston, NY, August 10, 2022 - Climate change poses significant risks to communities across New York State. Although the State’s Climate Smart Community Certification Program (CSCCP) incentivizes local climate action by providing benefits and recognition to participating municipalities, local governments frequently cite limited staff time and funding as significant barriers to climate action.

To build community-level capacity for climate action, New York Sea Grant, worked with Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), researchers, students, and many partners, through a rigorous three-year (2018-2021) process to develop a Cornell Climate Stewards Program. The National Institute for Food and Agriculture, federal Extension Smith-Lever dollars, and a pilot grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority provided funding.

In 2020, NYSG extension expertise helped develop climate-focused, science-based curricula. In early 2021, NYSG held a train-the-trainer program with CCE educators from six counties in preparation for conducting a pilot program with community participants in the fall. Due to COVID-19, this training and the 12-week pilot program were adapted to an online format. The six CCE county educators selected the first cohort of Climate Stewards based on applications. NYSG specialists taught classes covering climate science, climate impacts, and environmental justice, and assisted with the localized cohorts in New York City and Ulster County.

Fifty-two individuals completed the 12-week program and designed projects to support climate action in their respective communities based on interests, abilities, and community need. The first Cornell Climate Stewards represented communities within Dutchess, Monroe, Seneca, Tompkins, and Ulster counties and New York City.

Project Partners:

• Cornell Cooperative Extension: Dutchess, Monroe, Seneca, Tompkins, Ulster counties; New York City

“What an opportunity for the motivated! World-class Cornell scientists and educators. A collection of well-screened references. Hand-selected co-participants. But you have to work at it or this opportunity is squandered.” — Richard Mattocks, Cornell Climate Stewards Program participant, Dutchess County

Learn more at

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

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