Jay Watson joining NJ Conservation Foundation staff

Apr 30, 2019

FAR HILLS – New Jersey Conservation Foundation announced today that John (Jay) Watson, who has led several environmental programs both in the government and nonprofit sectors over the past four decades, will join its staff as the Senior Director of Statewide Land Protection and Community Relations.

In this post, Watson will continue and strengthen New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s work in preserving land throughout the state. He will also deepen the foundation’s work developing partnerships and engaging New Jersey’s diverse communities. He will begin on June 11.

“We have worked with Jay Watson for many years to preserve and protect New Jersey’s open space and farmland, and we’re thrilled to have him join the team,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

“We look forward to putting his knowledge, expertise and experience to work as we reach out to people throughout New Jersey to hear how we can best bring nature to their communities,” she added.

”I am excited to join an organization that has such a long and successful history of protecting New Jersey’s land and water, and working in every corner of the state – from the Pine Barrens to Camden to the Palisades,” said Watson.  “Having worked on waterfront reclamation and redevelopment projects in the cities of Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne, Elizabeth, Trenton and Camden, I know that providing quality outdoor civic spaces makes a meaningful difference to both the health and happiness of both the natural environment and the people who live within a 10- to 15-minute walk who will enjoy it.”

Watson brings nearly 40 years of experience directing successful land preservation programs in New Jersey.

Since 2010, Watson has served as Vice President for D & R Greenway Land Trust, a Princeton-based nonprofit land conservancy. There, he managed the Greenway’s Land Acquisition Program and led special projects such as the acquisition and implementation of Capital City Farm adjacent to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.  Most recently he helped with the restoration of Trenton’s Battle Monument Park, which is just underway.

Prior to coming to joining D&R Greenway, Watson spent nearly 30 years in various roles in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

He served as the Department’s Deputy Commissioner, reporting directly to the Commissioner.  He also served as Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources, and led the Green Acres Program, which is recognized as a national model for land preservation and park development.

Watson served as Co-Chair for Governor Phil Murphy’s Environmental Transition Team and is currently Co-Chair of Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora’s Transition Team for Greening, Sustainability, Natural Resources and Recreation. He  also represented Governor Jon Corzine on the Delaware River Basin Commission, co-chaired the New Jersey Invasive Species Council, and served on the NYNJ Harbor Estuary Program Policy Committee.

He is a former Trustee of the Princeton Area Community Foundation and currently serves on the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation board, Trenton Cycling Revolution and is a member of King David Lodge #15, PHA Trenton, NJ.

In his new position, Watson will take over many of the job responsibilities of Greg Romano, who is retiring from New Jersey Conservation Foundation on June 30.

“Jay is a highly respected leader with an excellent record of natural resource protection,” said Romano. “He is the ideal person to continue and expand New Jersey Conservation’s open space and farmland preservation efforts.”

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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The State We're In


By Michele S. Byers,
Executive Director