Environment Rhode Island to Congress: Protect Rhode Island’s Beaches and Coast

Media Contacts
Channing Jones

Environment Rhode Island

Providence, RI. – On Friday, Environment Rhode Island unveiled Rhode Island’s Coast: 10 Places Worth Protecting, a list of ten coastal places in the state that have received support through federal conservation programs. With funding for these programs under fire––and with Congress debating the nation’s budget in D.C.––Environment Rhode Island held a news conference at Conimicut Point Park in Warwick asking Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation to ensure Rhode Island’s beaches and public lands are protected for the future.

“We want to protect Rhode Island’s public lands so that future generations can enjoy our beaches and special places like Block Island just as our generation does now,” said Miranda Bertholet, preservation intern with Environment Rhode Island. “We urge our leaders to give Rhode Island’s coast the protection it deserves.”

Decades ago, Congress set up the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect, improve, and expand public lands. In Rhode Island, a portion of this funding has gone to federal conservation lands, such as the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, and some has gone to grants to conserve and improve our state and local parks and recreation areas, including many of Rhode Island’s beaches.

Here are a few of the coastal places on Environment Rhode Island’s list that have received support from this fund:

•    The Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most important migratory bird stopover points on the Atlantic Coast and a proclaimed “Last Great Place” by the Nature Conservancy.
•    Conimicut Point Park, popular for swimming, fishing, and other recreational activities.
•    Beavertail State Park, with its gorgeous views and with one of the oldest lighthouses in North America.

Environment Rhode Island was joined at Conimicut Point Park on Friday by Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian.

“Over the years, federal Land and Water Conservation funds have enabled us to protect hundreds of special coastal areas throughout the state that are enjoyed by thousands of residents and tourists every year,” said Director Coit. “These waterfront assets are the fabric of Rhode Island life, and it is so important that they be preserved for present and future generations.”

“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 Mayor Avedisian. “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.”

Thankfully, Senators Whitehouse and Reed have the chance to continue to defend Rhode Island’s public lands by supporting full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is a federal program with a track record of success in Rhode Island, providing places like beaches and coastal areas with critical funding by using a fraction of the royalties from offshore oil drilling to fund conservation programs.

While members of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation have been consistent champions of conservation programs, other members of Congress have succeeded in raiding the LWCF for non-conservation purposes, leaving a legacy of backlogged conservation and recreation needs. And earlier this week, Senator Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Boozman (R-AR) each tried to further slash the program through the budget amendment process. Congress will vote shortly on funding levels for the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as the National Parks budget as a part of the FY14 budget.

“I urge Senators Reed and Whitehouse to continue to champion Rhode Island’s natural heritage by supporting full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and to fight to make sure that Rhode Island’s beaches and parks can stay open and in good condition now and in the future,” said Bertholet.