Conservation of 120 Acres in Southern Rhode Island

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Members of the Rhode Island congressional delegation, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy announced the protection of 120 acres of wildlife habitat in southern Rhode Island.

The unique conservation deal involves two separate properties. The 48-acre Camp Pastore property, located in Charlestown, sits along the northwestern shore of Watchaug Pond. The property, originally part of Burlingame State Park, was transferred to the state Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals (MHRH) in 1986. Now the property has returned to DEM control and inclusion back into the state park. In South Kingstown, 72 acres of previously state-owned land known as the Stedman property fronts Pettaquamscutt Cove and is adjacent to John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

In 2007, MHRH recommended selling the Pastore property in an effort to address a budget deficit. Citing the property's origin, natural resource value and proximity to existing protected lands, DEM opposed the sale and worked with others to devise a plan that would allow the land to be conserved and, at the same time, help MHRH close its budget gap.

In a deal facilitated by The Conservation Fund, USFWS purchased the Stedman property for $1.18 million. The property will be added to John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge and protected in perpetuity. Rhode Island's congressional delegation secured the federal money for the purchase of this important property from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

"What we're marking is a true win-win for Rhode Islanders, who will see environmental and natural habitat preserved as well as critical federal funding returned to the state to meet the budget challenges we face," said Sen. Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations committee who secured federal funding for the acquisition of the Stedman property. "I commend Reggie Hall, The Conservation Fund and Charlie Vandemoer, who worked to make this happen. Not only will this conserve land vital to Rhode Island's natural legacy, it will also enhance outdoor recreational opportunities in our state."

"In these economically challenging times, I applaud the continued dedication of the public and private sectors to save these pristine parcels of land," said Rep. Jim Langevin. "This land acquisition is a tribute to Rhode Island's ongoing commitment to preserving open spaces and to the important role that conservation plays in our state. I look forward to continuing to work to preserve and protect our state's valuable environmental resources."

"Our open spaces and our wilderness spaces are under more pressure than almost anywhere," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. "It merits, and will take, a significant effort to try to acquire as much property and as many conservation rights as we can. Preserving these lands in Charlestown and South Kingstown is an important first step."

"This unique federal-state conservation initiative represents the best aspects of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Land and Water Conservation Fund," said Rep. Patrick Kennedy. "By bridging the gap between state budgets and outstanding environmental values, we can deliver real value to Rhode Islanders and preserve our state's precious natural resources. I was pleased to support this effort, which will protect open space and enhance public access for future generations of Rhode Islanders."

"It takes a village of conservation-minded individuals and organizations to conserve land as a refuge for wildlife and people," said Marvin Moriarty, Northeast regional director for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "We would not be here today celebrating this addition to the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge without the involvement and support of the Rhode Island congressional delegation, The Conservation Fund and the state of Rhode Island."

"This is an innovative conservation solution that meets the fiscal demands of the state and preserves Rhode Island's natural resources - a true balance of economics and environment," said Reggie Hall, real estate associate for The Conservation Fund. "We applaud the federal and state governments for working together to make this project a success."

In exchange for the USFWS purchasing the Stedman property, the state agreed to grant a conservation easement on the Pastore property to The Nature Conservancy. The conservation easement protects the property's natural resources and ensures the property's permanent protection.

"This is a good arrangement for all parties," said Department of Environmental Management Director W. Michael Sullivan, Ph.D. "The Stedman land expands the buffer and habitat along the Narrow River, and the return of the Pastore land to DEM holdings and stewardship provides enduring protection of Watchaug Pond."

"The Nature Conservancy is pleased to part of this partnership that not only safeguards the natural resources of Camp Pastore in perpetuity but also adds additional lands to the John H. Chafee Wildlife Refuge," said Janet Coit, Rhode Island state director for The Nature Conservancy. "This is a win-win for conservation."

The Stedman property contains habitat for over a dozen high-priority wildlife species, including the salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow and American black duck. The forested portions serve as an ecological filter, preventing pollutants from reaching Pettaquamscutt Cove and the Narrow River. Protection of the property enhances public access and recreational opportunities along the cove.