PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife announces the launch of its 2015 Wildlife Action Plan (WAP) revision process. Over the next two years, DEM and its partners will work with wildlife experts and other key stakeholders throughout the state and region to develop a comprehensive plan to conserve wildlife and natural places, enhancing the quality of life in Rhode Island. As communities grow, investing in the WAP now can help protect wildlife and the places they live for future generations.
This proactive plan will assess Rhode Island's wildlife and natural places, identify the problems they face, and outline actions needed to conserve them over the long term. The health of wildlife is often an early indicator of disease and pollution that affect humans. In addition to providing a proactive approach to wildlife conservation, the plan will protect clean water and air, making both wildlife and people healthier.
By updating the WAP, DEM also qualifies for millions in matching funds from the Federal State Wildlife Action Grant program established in 2000 to support conservation of non-game species and their habitats. Every 10 years, each state must develop a WAP to conserve wildlife before they become rarer and more costly to protect. Rhode Island's original 2005 WAP will be revised by 2015.
For the 2015 WAP revision, a strong and unique partnership has been formed between the DEM and the Rhode Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to leverage financial resources and staff expertise. This effort is further enhanced by the University of Rhode Island (URI) which is also providing project and technical assistance as a key member of the core team.
Terry Sullivan, TNC Rhode Island chapter director stated, "We are very excited to work on this important project in partnership with DEM and URI to produce a document that will be used for the next 10 years to inform conservation efforts at both the state and local level."
"DEM is proud to work with our longtime partners, TNC and the URI, as we develop a comprehensive plan to address wildlife conservation efforts over the coming decade," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "This proactive plan will enable us to fund priority conservation efforts statewide and maintain Rhode Island's diverse natural landscape for its residents and wildlife populations to enjoy."
The 2015 WAP aims to reassess priority species and habitats, as well as develop mapping and information for conservation opportunity areas. The plan will analyze threats affecting fish and wildlife, including those most vulnerable to habitat loss or degradation, population growth, and climate change. Importantly, conservation actions to address or alleviate these threats and effectively conserve Rhode Island's valuable wildlife resources will also be developed by scientists, sportsmen, conservationists and members of the community, working together.
As the smallest state in the nation, Rhode Island still supports almost 900 vertebrate wildlife species and an estimated 20,000 invertebrates spanning the scenic coastline of Narragansett Bay to its upland and wetland forests. Included in this incredible natural diversity are a suite of mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian, fish, and invertebrate species that the State has identified as in greatest conservation need (GCN). These species are supported throughout the state by over 60 different key habitats.
Broad public, partner, and stakeholder input will be requested and is welcome throughout the WAP revision process. As a first step, in early 2013 DEM, with the assistance of TNC and URI, held two Scientific Review Workshops to elicit expert stakeholder feedback on draft lists of GCN species, key habitats, threats, and conservation actions. Additional meetings will continue to solicit ideas and feedback across the state. A draft report will be available for public comment in late 2014. For more information on DEM or the WAP revision, please visit www.dem.ri.gov/riwap. General comments can be sent to email@example.com.
DEM is committed to preserving the quality of Rhode Island's environment, maintaining the health and safety of its residents, and protecting the natural systems upon which life depends. DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife's mission is to ensure that the freshwater, marine and wildlife resources of the State of Rhode Island will be conserved and managed for equitable and sustainable use.