Lands In Rhode Island
institutional players in land conservation in Rhode Island are The Nature
Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Audubon Society, and the
RI Department of Environmental Management. There has, however, been
an rapid growth in the number of small, local conservation organizations,
such as Land Trusts and conservation commissions, that are becoming effective
agents in purchasing land for open space. The Rhode Island land conservation
community is fortunate in having access to many sources of funds that are
dedicated to purchasing land and these include state and local bonds, private
Foundations, oil spill settlement funds, and monies specifically targeted
for groundwater and wetlands protection. State, federal, and local
conservationists are now in the position of having to decide which lands
are most valuable for natural resource protection.
Many of the small
municipal-based conservation organizations do not have ready access to
the scientific data they need to objectively evaluate conservation value
of potential properties they might acquire. Furthermore, they sometimes
do not have the technical or ecological background to identify critical
regions for protection. We have been working for three years in developing
a simple analytical protocol that provide local conservation organizations
guidance in identifying the most important lands for conservation.
Our model is based on the premise that single-theme conservation prioritizing
-- for example groundwater, wetland, biodiversity, or cultural resource
criteria -- is good and appropriate for many conservation applications
and transactions. However, all things being equal, any property that
contain multiple resources has more value than properties that only contain
a single resource. Therefore, areas in the community where we have
high co-occurrence of natural and cultural resources are critically important
targets for protection because they represent the most (economic) value
for the conservation dollar.
The USDA NRCS and
EPA Region I have funded the URI Environmental Data Center to conduct an
analysis of critical lands for conservation through the state. Four
communities are the initial focus of the analysis. See the Results
example below for an overview of the kind of information we are providing
communities. If you are interested in having the critical lands assessment
conducted for your community, see the information at the bottom of this
Resource Themes of the
Critical Lands Analysis
the basic resource themes and the sources of data that enter into our analysis
lands (1995 LULC dataset)
Prime and Important
soils (SSURGO data)
and Aesthetic Resources
Regions (1998 RIGIS version)
300 ft of wetlands, rivers/streams, estuaries
Brushland (1995 RIGIS LULC)
300 ft of already protected land (DEMWMA, Audubon,TNC,
and USFWS dataset)
habitats (DEM heritage dataset on critical/unique habitats)
Areas (RIGIS, DEM)
Areas (RIGIS, DEM)
series of documents will explain the steps taken in the Critical Lands
to the methods documentation.
or land trust participating in the project will receive the following:
Laminated 1:24,000 paper plots
of the digital orthophoto of the community
Laminated paper plots of each resource
theme and constituent data
A laminated critical lands composite
A CD of an ArcView Project
with all the constituent data for the analysis (for future custom refinement
of the analysis by the community if they wish)
We will also maintain
a web presence with the results of each community
How to Use These Data
Theme maps and Composite map can be used in many ways to support conservation
-- Areas of the composite map that are the darkest green contain the most
co-occurring resources in the community. They are the first place
a conservation organization might search for land available for conservation.
Evaluation of Opportunistic
Acquisitions -- Many times, land owners will offer their property,
or development rights to their land, to conservation organizations.
The single theme maps and the composite map will help the conservation
organization determine the value of the property for resource protection.
Acquisitions -- The maps and analyses contained here can be used to
justify to granting organizations the importance of the conservation projects
you intend to do. The data and methods we used in this analysis are
the very best quality that is available today.
-- The public will be interested in any past or current acquisitions that
fall inside resource-important regions of the landscape. The maps
will help you demonstrate the importance of your organization in protecting
the natural and cultural resources of the area.
Lands analysis is underway for all towns located in Washington County
along with West Greenwich. The project will be completed in two phases. Phase 1
will consist of running the generic analysis and deliver the output to each individual
towns. Phase 2 will consist of rerunning the anaylsis according to an individual town
This extension of the analysis is being funded by RI DEM under a grant sponsored by
The US Forest Service and is referred to as
The South County Greenspace Project.
There will be cooperation from various agencies in Rhode Island including: The
Coastal Resources Center, URI/Sea Grant Program, Grow Smart Rhode Island,
Washington Regional Planning Council, and the South County Watersheds Partnership.
Interested in the Analysis
for Your Community or Land Trust?
Peter August (874-4794) or Alyson
for a brief article on the Critical Lands Process