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Land Conservation in Rhode Island Fiscal Year 2008 Report

Land Acquisition and Real Estate Program
 
News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release: October 22, 2008
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402

DEM ANNOUNCES PRESERVATION OF TUCKAHOE TURF FARMS IN RICHMOND

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management today announced the acquisition of farmland development rights to the 486-acre Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Richmond.

The announcement was made at an 11:30 a.m. ceremony at the farm, attended by state and federal officials and agricultural preservationists. Speakers included Governor Donald L. Carcieri, State Senator V. Susan Sosnowski, State Representative Donna Walsh, DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan, Ph.D., Janet Coit, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy, George Bates, owner of the farm, and Roylene Rides at the Door, State Conservationist with the US Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"Preservation of open space in our small, highly developed state is critically important to preserving the natural beauty and lifestyle we treasure," Governor Carcieri said. "I am asking voters to approve Question #2 on the November ballot, which provides $2.5 million for additional purchase of farmland and development rights. These state funds are essential to obtain matching federal funds which we need to make these purchases possible."

The farmland is located on the easterly and westerly sides of Switch Road. With frontage on both the Wood River and Meadow Brook, the Tuckahoe purchase helps protect almost a mile of shoreline along Meadow Brook, a tributary of the Pawcatuck River and about a half mile of Wood River shoreline. The property features a public fishing area and connects the state's Carolina Management Area and other protected farmland. The preservation of this property creates a conservation area of 3,000 contiguous acres. In addition, The Nature Conservancy's Carter Preserve is located south of the Tuckahoe property and represents another 850 acres of preserved lands. The farm is currently operating as a turf farm by a family owned business, which operates several farms in New England. The company has been in business for over 30 years and employs 20 people at its Rhode Island location.

"This is the largest farmland acquisition that the state has ever been involved in," noted DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan, PhD. "This past fiscal year was an excellent year for land acquisition, with over 2,300 acres of land protected by all conservation interests, including 867 acres of important active farmland protected by the agricultural program through the purchase of development rights. These success stories underscore the importance of investing in our state's future so that important parcels of land can be protected from development."

Funding for the $4.25 million Tuckahoe acquisition includes $1.29 million from Rhode Island's Agricultural Land Preservation Commission's state farmland bond funds, $600,000 from the State Open Space program, $1.86 million from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and $500,000 from The Nature Conservancy.

Farms to which the state acquires development rights are working farms and remain in private ownership. The easements require that the lands remain in agriculture or in a condition available for agricultural use. The agriculture industry in Rhode Island -- totaling 858 farms that generate more than $100 million annually -- is not only an integral part of the state's economy but provides a valuable contribution to Rhode Island's open space and quality of life. To date, 84 farms, totaling 6,229 acres, have been protected through Rhode Island's farmland bond funds in partnership with other organizations.

" I am delighted to celebrate the combined efforts of partners involved in protecting the farmland at Tuckahoe Turf Farms, a project that assures fertile soils and safeguards our waterways," said Janet Coit, State Director of The Nature Conservancy. "Each of our farmland and open space projects is unique, but all require a combination of funding sources to carry them off. If we are to continue our successful programs to preserve farmland and protect water quality, it is imperative that Rhode Islanders vote to approve the $2.5 million Open Space and Recreation Development Bond in November. These funds are the catalyst for the partnerships that support our natural legacy of farms and forests -- and protect our quality of place."

DEM Releases 2008 Land Acquisition Report

DEM Director Sullivan announced that more than 2,000 acres of land were protected in Rhode Island during fiscal year 2008, according to the Department's latest Land Acquisition Report, which is now available.

DEM, working through its land acquisition program, local grants program, and the Agricultural Land Preservation Commission, protected 2,314 acres in 28 separate projects during the year, including over 867 acres of important active farmland protected by the agricultural program through the purchase of development rights.

Significant parcels protected during FY 2008 include the 41-acre Rocky Point property on Narragansett Bay in Warwick. The City of Warwick's purchase of the land, along with DEM's acquisition of a conservation and public access easement, will enable the property to be transformed into a waterfront park with walking trails, two small sandy beaches, marshland, and a picnic area that the public will enjoy for passive recreation. Rocky Point also preserves critical marine and coastal habitat such as coastal wetlands, salt marshes, and beach. The property was purchased through a combination of support from the state Open Space Bond, which contributed $1.4 million, the City of Warwick, which contributed $800,000 and a federal matching grant for $2.2 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency's Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.

Among the important farmlands protected were the historic Dutra and Neale Farms in Jamestown. The two farms, totaling 109 acres, represent a significant effort to preserve the agricultural heritage of Jamestown, where farming has been a part of the community since the early settlers arrived in the 1600s. The addition of these two farms will bring the total area of contiguous open space and agricultural land abutting Route 138 in Jamestown to more than 750 acres. Several important parcels of open space and recreation land were protected, including the 81-acre Neylon property that was acquired by the Coventry Land Trust with assistance from a DEM local open space matching grant. With 2,500 feet of frontage on the Trestle Trail and a connection to the Washington Secondary Bike Path, the property provides an excellent link to other protected land and to urban areas. Several other parcels, such as the 178-acre Blount property in Portsmouth and the 43-acre Webster property in Charlestown were preserved to protect critical habitat and biodiversity for wildlife.

DEM's Land Acquisition Program attempts to maximize its leveraging potential through combining funding of various programs for many of the acquisition projects. The programs work together and with other local and federal programs to stretch each state bond dollar. In FY 2008, $45.7 million in land value was preserved. Of this amount, approximately $4.4 million was donated land value from private property owners. Of the remaining $41.3 million, only $11.1 million was from state bonds for state land acquisition, farmland preservation, or local matching grants. Federal funds totaled $13.6 million, and the remaining $16.5 million came from other sources such as local land trusts and non-profits, most notably The Nature Conservancy and The Audubon Society of Rhode Island. Overall, in FY 08 the state was able to leverage $34.5 million from the overall $25 million open space bond fund.

DEM's "Land Conservation in Rhode Island - Fiscal Year 2008" report is available on DEM's website, www.dem.ri.gov by clicking on "Publications." Copies are also available by calling DEM's Division of Planning and Development at 222-2776.

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