Sierra Club Home Page New Jersey Chapter
Raritan Valley Group > Jane Tousman  
Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Background: | Testimonials: | Memorial Proposals:

Background:
On Saturday, March 22, 2014 Jane Tousman, 77, a long time Sierra Club activist, passed away at JFK Medical Center Hospice after suffering a debilitating stroke on February 14.

Jane, who lived in Edison, was a long time leader in the Sierra Club's Raritan Valley Group, serving as Conservation Chair and Advisor, and the New Jersey Chapter, where she was a board member for 18 years, serving as New Jersey's representative to the National Council of Club Leaders.

Jane Tousman Tousman got her start in politics volunteering with the League of Women Voters shortly after moving to New Jersey in the 1970s.

Jane also served as president of the Edison Town Council and made a run for State Assembly.

 

Her many environmental accomplishments include:

She was a resource to many Sierra Club leaders who looked to her for her vast experience in dealing with land use law and other environmental issues.

Testimonials:

Robert Spiegel, chairman of the Dismal Swamp Preservation Commission said. "Jane Tousman and those who worked with her set the groundwork for the work that the Edison Wetlands Association has been able to accomplish. Jane is my personal hero, and I have always looked to her as my moral compass for what was good and right in our community."

Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said.
"Jane was always very positive and always wanted to get things done. She was always very helpful to other board members and volunteers. She always encouraged people to do better and to do more. She was someone that many of our members looked towards for help and guidance. When you drive around Edison and Central New Jersey the reason it is not all paved over with sprawl is because of the dedication of Jane Tousman to save those last remaining open spaces. She was a great environmentalist, a true friend, and a dedicated activist. She will be greatly missed, but her work and legacy will continue on."


 
Sunil Somalwar, past chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club said.
"I got to know Jane very well over the years as a fellow Sierra Club volunteer. I most cherish the long carpool drives with her to the Sierra Club meetings where I got to know her personally as well. I will miss her optimism, positivity, stick-to-itiveness, and above all, her art of employing political savvy and toughness for the protection of everything gentle and fragile on this planet. Instead of talking about her principles, Jane fought for them as a true Gandhian activist. She had zero regard for personal gain.

Jane was a bulldog in the best sense of the word and she is a role model for my three teenage daughters as they grow up in a man's world. It is difficult to express in words how much I miss her personally and we miss her as a community." The Executive Committee of the New Jersey Sierra Club's Raritan Valley Group on behalf of its 1,200 members extends our condolences to Jane's family!


Ken Johansen, chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club wrote:
REMEMBERING JANE:
This past March the State of New Jersey, and all of us who care about the future of this planet, lost one of our environmental heroes, Jane Tousman.

When Jane and her husband Dan moved to New Jersey in the 70's it didn't take long for Jane to get involved. She started out with the League of Women Voters and went on to become a member of the Edison Town Council, eventually serving as president. She also ran (unsuccessfully) as a Republican for the State Assembly.

But it's Jane's efforts to preserve open space, especially her beloved Dismal Swamp, that we will remember her for.

The Dismal Swamp Conservation Area, a 1240-acre tract of wetlands located in Edison, South Plainfield and Metuchen, would be filled in and paved over today had it not been for Jane and a small group of activists who, using the name "Save Our Swamp," or S.O.S., mounted an organized campaign to oppose the construction of 2000 residential units in the swamp. Jane and her fellow activists fought the project for eight years. Eventually the parties reached a compromise, resulting in the preservation of hundreds of acres of wetlands.

But Jane's efforts to protect and preserve the Dismal Swamp did not end when the developer finally realized that Jane was a force to be reckoned with and that it was time to salvage what he could from his original proposal. Jane continued to oppose environmentally inappropriate projects and continued to advocate for preserving undeveloped areas within the Dismal Swamp, as well as other areas throughout the State, until the day she died.

Today 660 acres of the Dismal Swamp are protected. According to Bob Spiegel, executive director of the Edison Wetlands Association, "If it was not for [Jane] there would be no Dismal Swamp or many other open spaces." These sentiments were echoed by Senator Peter Barnes who, according to NJ.com, noted that "It's hardly an exaggeration to say that Edison would look vastly different . . . if it weren't for Jane Tousman. Fewer parks, fewer open spaces. More strip malls and subdivisions. Maybe no Dismal Swamp, at all."

Jane was an active member of the Edison Wetlands Association, served as a member of the Edison Open Space Committee and recently was appointed to the Dismal Swamp Commission. And, fortunately for us, Jane was also an active member of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Jane was reelected to the New Jersey Chapter's executive committee just before her death. She served as a member of the executive committee for 18 years and, during this period, rarely missed a meeting. Jane played an active role in many of the Chapter's campaigns and initiatives, but it was clear to all of us that her top priority was protecting open space and defeating environmentally harmful development proposals.

At our monthly executive committee meetings Jane frequently would alert us to a development proposal that she felt posed a threat to the environment and that we should oppose. I don't think we ever disagreed with Jane that the proposal posed a threat to the environment and that we should oppose it. But we weren't always as optimistic as Jane was that the proposal could be defeated.

On more than one occasion I remember several of us pointing out to Jane that the law was not on our side, that we had no political support for our position and that there was little or no community opposition to the project. We said, "Jane you're not going to win this one." Jane would smile, thank us for our input, and proceed to show us all that we were wrong. To this day I don't know how she did it, but I think her successes were due in large part to her unbridled enthusiasm, her willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done and, above all, her irrepressible optimism.

But Jane wasn't all business. She also knew how to have a good time and rarely, if ever, missed an opportunity to get together with fellow volunteers and staff members at the Chapter's annual holiday party, our summer picnic or an event honoring a departing staff member or volunteer. We all contributed to these events, and Jane was no exception. Without fail, Jane would send around an email asking whether she should bring shrimp cocktail or her green mold. Invariably we all responded that she should bring her green mold, not so much because we preferred it over shrimp cocktail (although it really was quite good), but because, as environmentalists, the name that Jane had given to her dish just seemed so appropriate.

Jane was a great environmentalist. But she was also a warm and loving friend to so many of us in the environmental community. She will be missed.
See the Chair's Message in the July-Sept issue of the "Jersey Sierran"


Memorial Contributions may be made in her memory to:
The New Jersey Sierra Club - 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618.
or The Temple Emanu-el, 100 James St., Edison, NJ 08820
Memorials:

At the 2014 Earth Day celebration at the triple C ranch in Dismal Swamp, a tree was planted in Jane's honor and the first "Jane Tousman Award for Environmental Excellence" was awarded to Dana Patterson project manager for the Edison Wetlands Association (EWA).

Other proposals:
There have been a number of proposals for memorials for Jane.
Edison Township is currently reviewing them with a group of Jane's friends, family and organizations like the Sierra Club and the Edison Wetlands Association.
They include:

  • Place a bench with a plaque for her at the Edison Municipal Complex.
    The Sierra Club is in the process of implementing this with the Township.
  • Creating a butterfly garden at Oak Tree Pond in her honor.
    The township is working on this.
  • Naming the proposed expanded/new Learning center to be built in Dismal Swamp
    The Jane Tousman Environmental Learning Center.
    The township has started the process to get the ball rolling on this.
  • Naming a trail (e.g. part of the Edison Greenway) for her .
  • Naming a part of the Dismal Swamp (e.g. the Hardwood Forest) for her.
  • Renaming the park created at the Chemical Insecticide Corporation (CIC) Superfund Site for her.
  • Name the Talmadge Road bridge/causeway over the swamp in honor of Jane with a plaque at each end. Jane was instrumental in getting the bridge built instead of an eco unfriendly ground level road.
  • Renaming the Dismal Swamp for her.
  • Creating scholarships in her name.


See:
Jane Tousman Video by the Edison Wetlands Assn.
Sierra Club Press Release
Jane Tousman, influential activist for Edison's environment, dies at 77 | NJ.com
Using Garage Sales to Help Save a Swamp - New York Times, 1993
Leah "Jane" Tousman Obituary: MyCentralJersey legacy.com
L&B Reflects on the Legacy of Environmental Activist Jane Tousman
Environmentalist Jane Tousman dies at 76 | MyCentralJersey.com
Jane Tousman | Council of Club Leaders Delegate | ZoomInfo.com - 2004
Edison Council 5/29/2008 Jane Tousman - YouTube
Jane gives feedback on train station redevelopment. - 2008

Last updated Thu., Aug 5, 2014