2/28/2011 — 

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today joined with Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet L. Coit and Dr. John F. Organ, Chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration to announce nearly $6 million in federal funding for important conservation projects throughout the state.  

For FY 2011, Rhode Island will receive $3.6 million in federal funding for the state's Sport Fish Restoration program and $2.3 million in federal funding for Wildlife Restoration programs.  These federal funds will help preserve Rhode Island's fish and wildlife populations and protect open spaces.

"This federal investment will help bolster the local economy and protect Rhode Island's natural resources," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior & Environment.  "These conservation efforts go hand-in-hand with economic sustainability because we all benefit from a healthy, clean environment and outdoor recreational opportunities.  DEM has done a great job of leveraging this money to preserve open spaces, which can have additional benefits like helping with flood control.  We are facing a difficult budget year, but lower real estate prices also make this a good time to buy, protect, and restore lands for future generations."

"The impact of the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs on Rhode Island cannot be overstated," said Janet Coit, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.  "The funds from these programs support projects and activities that are vitally important to our recreational fishermen, hunters, and boaters.  From baseline surveys and assessments of our fish and wildlife resources, to cutting-edge research on potential impacts from climate change on migratory waterfowl, to providing the public with access to our waters and natural areas, these federal funds produce results.  Senator Reed is a terrific champion of these programs, and stands shoulder to shoulder with the sportsmen and women who have been leaders in natural resource conservation for decades."

The federal Sport Fish Restoration funds may be used to help stock fish; acquire and improve sport fish habitat; provide environmental education opportunities; conduct fisheries research; maintain public access, and for the construction of boat ramps, fishing piers, and other facilities.   According to a University of Rhode Island report, recreational fishing draws approximately 350,000 people to Rhode Island's waters each year -- more than 45% from out of state - and contributes nearly $100 million annually to the economy.

The federal Wildlife Restoration funds help the state buy, develop, or operate and maintain state wildlife management areas.  DEM will use the funds to enhance the state's ability to ensure that outdoor recreational opportunities remain available and help bolster the local economy and protect Rhode Island's natural resources for future generations. 

In Fiscal Year 2010, the DEM preserved over 1,600 acres throughout the state. The state's land acquisition program leveraged a $2.1 million state bond with $2.4 million from federal funding; $2.1 million from non-profits and land trusts; and $300,000 was donated land value from private property owners. 

Since 1994, Rhode Island has managed to preserve over 22,000 acres of natural areas, including: forests, farmland, wetlands and waterways.  Today, about 20% of the state is preserved as open space, for recreation, or for agricultural use.

The funds for both these programs are generated by import duties and federal excise taxes on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, archery and angling equipment, and boat motor fuels and administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior.