Since 1906, when the Rhode Island Forest Commission was first established, the forests of Rhode Island have been considered a valued and significant resource. The Commission, established at a low point in the forest cover of RI, has become RIDEM’s Division of Forest Environment (DFE) and the forests, which that first Commissioner described, recovered through the early 20th century as populations and industry shifted and changed. Since the 1970’s, however, land use and populations have shifted again and Rhode Island’s forests are experiencing development and fragmentation pressures, as well as the effects of a changing climate.
Maintaining a valued environmental, economic and social/recreation resource is a priority for RIDEM and the 40,000 acres of state-owned land, for which DFE shares responsibility with the Division of Fish & Wildlife, is highly valued. But privately-owned land in RI is also significant, benefitting all residents, affecting air and water quality, wildlife habitat and diversity, carbon sequestration, local economics and simply aesthetics. With funding provided through the USDA Forest Service, DEM also delivers several programs to assist RI landowners and residents:
Stewardship - assistance through the FFOS to support landowners managing their forests as working lands
Forest Health - information, education and monitoring introduced and native pests/diseases/plants
Forest Fire - assistance to volunteer fire departments and communities to plan and manage wildfire risk, wildfire training, Firewise®, as well as prescribed burning on DEM management areas
Urban & Community Forestry - assistance and education for communities and stakeholder groups to manage their existing community forest, plan for a successful future community forest, and prepare for emergencies
Forest Legacy - identifies important forestland and provides funding for the purchase of land or conservation easements to prevent conversion of the land to other uses.
Well-managed, healthy forests require management, planning, best management practices, whether on state-owned and managed land, or on private lands and benefits residents, wildlife, watersheds, municipalities and Narragansett Bay.