Viable photo
Clean Air
Clean and Plentiful Water
Livable Communities
Healthy Ecosystems
Viable Resource
Open Space
Viable Resource

Agriculture, commercial and recreational fisheries, forestry and tourism will be affordable and sustainable activities, will employ best management practices to protect common resources, and will be supported as resource stewards and key sectors of the state economy.

Rhode Island's economy benefits greatly from industries that are based on proper management of natural resources. Marine fisheries produce more than $75 million in fin and shellfish caught and $700 million in related seafood industries. The state's farms provide locally-grown agricultural products, contributing over $82 million to the state's economy; and upland forests provide wood products worth more than $18 million. Agricultural and forest businesses enhance quality of life by maintaining open space, providing access to locally grown products, and preserving a rural way of life. Tourism, based in large part on the attractiveness of the state's natural resources, is one of the state's largest industries, generating an estimated $2.1 billion a year. Recreational fishing and hunting are two of the largest recreational activities in the state. Two hundred thousand Rhode Islanders and tourists take part in recreational fishing, generating 21,160 jobs and millions of dollars. Recreational hunting participants spend $162 million annually.

In addition to ecosystem protection efforts, the Department took steps to sustain natural resource-based industries in 1999 through aid to farmers, woodland property owners and commercial anglers as well as improvement of hunting and fishing opportunities.

Aid to Farmers
There are over 700 farms in Rhode Island on over 55,000 acres, with cash receipts of nearly $82 million. The Department helps farmers through animal health, farm ecology, plant industry, farmland preservation, marketing and promotion, and other programs. DEM worked with the US Department of Agriculture, the Water Resources Board, the Emergency Management Agency, and others to coordinate a state response to the drought emergency last summer. The DEM provided technical assistance and emergency permits for expanding or constructing irrigation ponds or wells as needed to dozens of farms.

There is more to be done to help the state's farmers stay in business, and in 2000 DEM will focus on developing a drought preparedness plan and a farm viability program plan. The efforts taken in 1999 to help farmers get through the drought will be codified, refined and expanded so that in the event of a future drought DEM will be ready to respond in the most effective way possible. The department will also develop a holistic plan to help keep the state's farm industry viable through such efforts as marketing and promotion, watershed protection, and help with best agricultural management practices to protect the environment while sustaining the economic health of the farms.

Helping Woodland Owners
In 1999, DEM promoted woodland preservation through traditional ways to generate income such as sawtimber or fuelwood as well as innovative ways such as alternative products and services. The department provided workshops and printed materials on innovative ways to generate revenue including raising or obtaining edible, medicinal, floral, and specialty wood products. Promoting fee-based and passive recreation on woodland properties was also included. Such uses can make it possible for owners of small parcels to generate revenue to pay taxes and even make a profit while they preserve green spaces. As a result of these efforts, one landowner began harvesting hemlock to make planters.

Managing Fisheries for Sustainable Yield
The Department manages commercial fisheries to sustain healthy populations of commercial species. DEM sets harvest limits each season for different species in coordination with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and seeks to protect and restore coastal habitats that are critical to many commercial species. The Healthy Ecosystems chapter of this report provides more information on the Department's efforts to protect fisheries.

Improving the Commercial Fishing Infrastructure
To support the state's commercial fishing industry in 1999, the department began work on a five-year plan to improve state port facilities in Galilee and Newport. In Galilee, DEM rebuilt a pier, bringing the number of new piers in this port to four. The Department retained an engin-eering firm to draft replacement plans for a section of dilapidated bulkhead in the dragger section of the Port of Galilee. Construction will begin early in 2000, and plans have been drawn up to replace three more piers in spring 2000. DEM also built a floating dock at the port of Newport to be installed by the end of 2000, allowing ten more commercial skiffs to berth at the port. The Department also retained an engineering firm to design a bulkhead and other site improvements at Pier 9.

Marine commerce requires channels, harbors, ports, marinas and other facilities with deep enough water to allow easy, safe movement of boats. Unfortunately, maintenance dredging of most harbors and channels has come to a standstill in Rhode Island since 1971, due to environmental concerns and the lack of acceptable disposal sites. DEM will continue work with CRMC and the ACOE to develop and implement a statewide dredging plan, with particular focus on an expedited strategy for addressing the needs of marinas.

Improving Recreational Opportunities for Hunting and Fishing
In addition to the Department raising 135,000 trout and stocking them at public fishing areas, the Department included two new areas in 1999: Willett Pond in East Providence and J.L. Curran Reservoir in Cranston. DEM began an initiative to improve the largemouth bass fishery with the stocking of 5,000 largemouth bass into five ponds for study.

This is part of Department outreach to citizens unfamiliar with such laws. The Department distri-buted a fishing law brochure written in seven languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong and Vietnamese.

The Department also stocked 3,000 ring-neck pheasants for hunting on 10 different wildlife management areas; and collected harvest information on 2,000 deer and 147 wild turkeys for use in setting regulations to maintain adequate stocks. DEM offered over 40 courses in safe hunting and bowhunting to more than 900 students and a special seminar accommodating 200 wild turkey hunters. In partnership with the Wild Turkey Federation, the Department planted two orchards of crabapple trees to provide forage for wildlife.