The NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) Program was created in 1991 at the University of Connecticut, as a collaboration of the Cooperative Extension System, the Connecticut Sea Grant College Program and the Natural Resources Management and Engineering Department. NEMO was created in recognition of the relative lack of education and assistance available for community land use decision makers. Local land use decisions are a key determinant of the social, economic and environmental health of our communities, yet our local decision makers are volunteers with little or no training in land planning or natural resource protection.

The original NEMO pilot project was an outgrowth of the Long Island Sound Study National Estuary Program. With a grant from USDA, UConn staff developed a presentation that used remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) technologies to inform local land use decision makers about the links between land use and water quality. The original project focused on three pilot communities along Connecticut’s coast, but within a few years, NEMO had evolved into a program responding to requests from communities across the state.

National NEMO Network

Why a national network?

First, because no one has the corner on good ideas! Community leaders need as many effective and innovative approaches as possible as they struggle to balance economic growth with natural resource protection and preservation of community character. Second, because those few groups working in the arena of land use education need the assistance and support of their colleagues. Land use is largely a local issue, so federal and state agencies have few programs that directly address land use or the education of local officials.

Birth of the Network

By 1995, Connecticut NEMO staff began to conduct workshops to assist their colleagues in other states to plan, organize and initiate NEMO adaptations. By 1997, with the number of NEMO programs growing and with the advice of an Interagency Work Group that included USDA, NOAA, EPA and NASA, the idea of a national network began to take hold. In October 2000, 15 NEMO programs from across the country met for the first time to share experiences and expertise, and to discuss ways to better collaborate. It was during this first NEMO conference, dubbed NEMO University or “NEMO U,” that the National NEMO Network was truly founded.

The Network's Mission

The mission of the National NEMO Network is to help communities better protect natural resources while accommodating growth. This assistance will be rendered through non-regulatory, research-based educational outreach programs that emphasize natural resource-based land use planning and better site design. Network members believe that outreach education is an appropriate, flexible, effective and cost-effective method for catalyzing change to local land use policies and practices. In fulfilling this mission, the Network will also further the missions of a great many agencies and organizations charged with protecting natural resources, preserving community character, promoting sustainable economic growth, reducing sprawl or making remote sensing technology useable by common citizens.