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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 13, 2011

One of 33 in USA
Stolzenburg gets advanced credentials in environmental planning

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

Nan Stolzenburg is an optimist and says, in her profession, she has to be.

She is one of 33 people nationwide to become certified as an environmental planner.

The certification, new this year, is run by the American Planning Association and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Stolzenberg has developed comprehensive and strategic plans for over 50 communities in the northern Catskills, the Mohawk and Hudson valleys, and central and northern New York, some of which have won national and state-level planning awards. Most of her clients are small, rural communities. Locally, she has worked with Altamont, New Scotland, Rensselaerville, and Berne.

“I try to keep up on all the latest tools and techniques,” Stolzenburg said. She noted that in New York State, unlike some other states, planners are not licensed. Of going for the certification, she said, “I felt it would make the folks in the communities where I work feel comfortable if there were some acknowledgement my skills were recognized.”

In addition to being a member of the AICP, Stolzenburg had to detail eight years of environmental planning projects, and then complete a rigorous three-hour written exam.

The designation indicates expertise in such areas as: analysis of complex environmental planning problems; creation of feasible solutions; coordination across constituencies and disciplines; and recommendations that efficiently integrate natural systems into the full set of systems necessary for healthy and sustainable communities.

Stolzenberg, who is from Auburn in central New York, started her career in wildlife biology — her bachelor’s degree is from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse, and her first master’s degree is in fisheries and wildlife biology from the University of Massachusetts.

“When I married, I came here,” she said. Stolzenburg, now 52, worked for the Audubon Society and for Cornell Cooperative Extension before launching her second career in planning.

She lives in rural Schoharie County where her husband’s family is in dairy farming. She took a course in planning at the University of Albany, out of interest, not for credit, but then went on to get a master’s degree in regional planning there.

“As I learned more, I felt it was a career where I could help communities with what matters to people who live out here,” said Stolzenburg who is the founder and principal planner of community Planning & Environmental Associates in Berne. “People around here love their community. They stay here because they love it. It’s rural with a clean environment, a great place to raise a family.”

The biggest challenge facing planners, Stolzenburg said, is trying to find a way to balance competing interests

She quotes Karen Wolf, one of the developers of the AICP Certified Environmental Planner examination: “Environmental planners constantly face challenges involving tradeoffs among growth, development, and environmental protection,” says Wolf. “The AICP CEP credential emphasizes the importance of solutions that are comprehensive, sustainable, and long term. The AICP CEP credential recognizes the role environmental planners play bridging the gap between science and planning, working in both of these disciplines to find ways to accommodate growth while also protecting the environment.”

Stolzenburg said her goal is to help communities “grow in a smart way that benefits everybody.” She went on, “We can have our cake and eat it, too. We can find a balance.”

She did concede, “There are not always solutions. But there are more solutions if you give it thought and time.”

Stolzenburg concluded, “I’m an eternal optimist.”

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