PROVIDENCE, RI – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the state's plan to guide forest management priorities over the next decade. The Rhode Island 2020 State Forest Action Plan (SFAP) describes forest resources, identifies challenges and threats to forestland and its management, and establishes goals for investing resources where they can be most effective to achieve conservation goals.
"Conserving and protecting forest resources is part of DEM's core mission and supports quality of life in the Ocean State," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Rhode Island's forests blanket over 50 percent of the state. From providing us with food to eat, paper for the books we read, and materials from which we build our homes and other products, our forests have tremendous environmental, economic, and cultural benefits."
The 2020 SFAP ensures the continuation of critical federal funding for the Division of Forest Environment's forest management programs. The Division works across the state with property owners and rural and urban communities on a wide range of forestry topics including forest heath, forest fire prevention, community and urban forest management, and private forest land management to maximize the positive benefits that trees and forests bring to all Rhode Islanders. In the 2020 Forest Action Plan, the national priorities to conserve, protect and enhance conserving these forest landscapes, both private and public, are essential to protect landscape functionality, habitat and environmental benefits.
Rhode Island's 386,373 acres of forest protect drinking water, improve air quality, mitigate climate change, provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, promote health, harbor wildlife, and create economic value. Seventy percent of Rhode Islanders get their drinking water from reservoirs protected by forests. Although DEM's Divisions of Forest Environment and Fish and Wildlife manage more than 57,000 acres of state-owned forests, forest land is predominantly held in private ownership. An estimated 38,000 families and individuals own 68 percent of Rhode Island's forest land.
Our forests face threats on multiple fronts: development leading to the loss and fragmentation, ease of spread of invasive plants and pests/diseases, loss of habitat, loss of economic and environmental benefits, and wildfire risk. Protecting RI's forest from these threats is a top priority of DEM's Division of Forest Environment's 2020 SFAP. The 2020 revision of the SFAP includes an assessment of the condition of trees and forests within state boundaries, regardless of ownership, along with strategies that address national forest conservation and protection goals. Rhode Island's SFAP, first completed in 2010, must be updated every 10 years as required by the 2008 Farm Bill. The plan is available online at http://www.dem.ri.gov/forestry.
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