On Saturday, the U.S. Senate voted to maintain the requested $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a decision Environment Rhode Island believes Rhode Islanders should celebrate.
“Lovers of Rhode Island’s coast should be thrilled that the Senate voted to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a landmark program that keeps development and pollution away from our best natural heritage,” said Channing Jones, program associate at Environment Rhode Island, in a statement.
Just 24 hours earlier, Mayor Scott Avedisian and Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit spent a windy and cold morning at Conimicut Point with Jones and Miranda Bertholet of Environment Rhode Island to make an appeal to the Senate not to touch the LWCF.
The event also served as the announcement of Environment Rhode Island’s list of the 10 coastal locations worth protecting, which includes Conimicut Point Park. The 10, said Jones, “are some of our favorites” from the scores of coastal locations that have benefited from the fund.
To emphasize their support to keep the fund intact, Avedisian, Coit, Channing and Bertholet spoke about the importance of the state’s coastline.
“With 39 miles of coastline in our city, we who live and work in Warwick are keenly aware of the importance of preserving, restoring and protecting our coastal resources,” said Avedisian.
“These are really the people’s places,” said Coit, referring to waterfronts throughout the state as “the fabric of Rhode Island life.”
The LWCF was formed in 1964 to protect, improve and expand public lands. It is partially funded by offshore drilling royalties. According to the program’s website, it “provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation facilities.”
“I can’t say enough about the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Coit. “Some of the most amazing places have been protected by [the fund].”
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been vital to our collective efforts to ensure that Rhode Islanders have access to coastal places, like Conimicut Point, where they can swim, fish and enjoy nature,” he said in a statement.
And the Senate hopes to maintain those environments, voting to fully fund the LWCF in their proposed FY14 budget, along with addition funds to support national parks.
Jones explained that states receive funds from the LWCF that are proportional to their population. While historically Rhode Island has received anywhere from tens of thousands to a couple of million, their proportional share of the $900 million is roughly $3 million.
The Senate also rejected amendments that would block the cleanup of global warming and mercury pollution. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse both supported the funding and voted down the amendments.
“When it came to defending our progress cleaning up harmful mercury and global warming pollution from dirty power plants, Senators Reed and Whitehouse chose the environment and our health over polluters’ interests,” said Jones.
Despite these victories for the environment, the Senate also approved the continued construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which, according to Jones, will “facilitate the reckless extraction of one of the most carbon-rich deposits on the planet.”
Jones is still hopeful for the future of Environment Rhode Island’s cause. “Going forward, I hope the Senate will do more to advance real solutions, like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to address our most pressing environmental challenges.”
The Rhode Island Coast: 10 Places Worth Protecting reads as follows:
1. Block Island National Wildlife Refuge (New Shoreham) – The Block Island National Wildlife Refuge is among the most important stopover points for migratory birds on the Atlantic Coast, with over 250 species of birds passing through. The refuge is also home to several endangered species, such as the Endangered American Burying Beetle.
2. Prudence Island (Portsmouth) – Accessible by ferry, Prudence Island is the third largest island in Narragansett Bay but home to just over 200 residents. The island has its own zip code and is a mix of private and public land, with beaches, coves, and views up and down Narragansett Bay.
3. Beavertail State Park (Jamestown) – With panoramic views of Narragansett Bay, Beavertail State Park is known by many as the best place to watch the sunset over the water in Rhode Island. The park is also home to the third oldest lighthouse in North America.
4. John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge (Narragansett) – Also known as Pettaquamscutt Cove, the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge is a critical habitat for the largest population of black ducks in Rhode Island.
5. Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge (South Kingstown) – The only pond near Rhode Island’s coast that does not have a developed shoreline, the Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge is home to diverse vegetation including barrier beaches, red maple swamps, grass fields, forests and tall shrublands. In addition, it is home to nearly 300 bird species.
6. Fort Wetherill (Jamestown) – Fort Wetherill is a destination for activities such as scuba diving, fishing, hiking and cliff-jumping, in addition to offering beautiful views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay as well as underground tunnels to explore. Scenes from the Wes Anderson film “Moonrise Kingdom” were filmed here.
7. Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge (Middletown) – Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge is a popular destination for both saltwater fishing and bird watching. It is also home to the second largest population of harlequin ducks on the East Coast.
8. Conimicut Point Park (Warwick) – Surrounded on three sides by Narragansett Bay, Conimicut Point offers excellent views as well as opportunities to swim, fish and relax. The park is also home to a historic lighthouse.
9. Fort Adams State Park (Newport) – Fort Adams is the largest coastal fort in the United States, perhaps best known as the location of the world famous Newport Folk Festival and Newport Jazz Festival.
10. Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge (Charlestown) – An old airfield from World War II, the refuge has been restored to its natural habitat with diverse vegetation and wildlife. Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge is also home to the Frosty Drew Observatory.