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Friday, January 24, 2014

DEM wants to expand effort to identify and protect vulnerable wild life

Over 450 species on the list already
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PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife announces a new community liaison for Rhode Island's Wildlife Action Plan and the development of a list of vulnerable fish and wildlife species in Rhode Island. 

This effort to identify the Species in Greatest Need of Conservation in Rhode Island was accomplished through a series of workshops with scientific experts and stakeholders over the last year to meet the requirements of the 2015 Wildlife Action Plan (WAP) revision and be eligible for Federal State Wildlife Action Grant funding over the next 10 years. There is no regulatory component to the WAP and its implementation is voluntary.

The Rhode Island WAP guides wildlife conservation across the state by identifying priority actions for agencies, conservation groups, towns and citizens alike to all do their part to help wildlife. 

Conserving wildlife and its habitat helps provide clean water and air and protect the quality of life for the humans and wildlife that share Rhode Island's environment. It also ensures that our children will be able to enjoy these special animals and places in a healthy environment.

This WAP revision effort and new community liaison position reflects the strong partnership between DEM, the Rhode Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the University of Rhode Island (URI), and the RI Natural History Survey (RINHS) to leverage financial resources and provide technical assistance and staff expertise to the project.

"Residents and visitors alike recognize that our incredibly diverse animal and plant communities are an important part of what makes Rhode Island so special," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Our conservation efforts will benefit current and future generations by protecting important wildlife habitats and safeguarding our state's air, water and natural heritage."

Species and habitats in greatest need of conservation have been identified by almost 50 scientific experts and reviewed by over 125 different technical experts and key conservation stakeholders.

They have identified impending threats to these wildlife species as well as actions that will help keep common species common and help the rarest species recover in Rhode Island. This information will be used to develop the WAP, which will be available for public review in the fall of 2014. Among the 454 fish and wildlife species and almost 60 key habitats most in need of conservation are bats, which have suffered drastic declines from disease (White Nose Syndrome).

Several species of frogs, salamanders, cold water fish, and dragonflies are also on the list, emphasizing the need for clean water and healthy wetlands. Declining forest interior birds, like the wood thrush and ovenbird, highlight one of the many values of Rhode Island forests. In all, 123 birds, 22 mammals, 23 reptiles and amphibians, 45 fish, and 241 invertebrate species comprise the list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Rhode Island.

This closely corresponds with the list compiled by the 13 Northeast states as a regional effort. The complete list will be available in February on DEM's website at

Additional workshops will be conducted over the winter and spring to finalize this work and prepare to incorporate it into the Plan. DEM welcomes public comments on the species list; they may be sent to

An important action identified in the original 2005 Plan was the need to include information pertinent to local planners, municipalities, conservation groups, land trusts and the general public. It was also imperative to provide these groups with opportunities for input into the WAP as well as providing tools and technical assistance to enable them to contribute to the conservation of these important natural assets.

In response to the consensus of the more than 50 stakeholder groups contributing to the 2005 plan, a WAP community liaison has been appointed to promote participation by municipalities and others interested in the development and implementation of the 2015 WAP. Amanda Freitas has been named to this position by the RI Natural History Survey, with funding from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. She is located at 
DEM headquarters in Providence and may be reached at 222-2776 ext. 2017 or via email at

"As a native Rhode Islander, I am thrilled to be back in my home state and to have this opportunity to help make Rhode Island a more hospitable place for the plants and animals that contribute so much to our quality of life here," said Amanda. "As the WAP liaison, I want to help Rhode Islanders realize the immense treasure with which they've been entrusted and the extent to which wildlife conservation impacts their quality of life."

DEM is committed to preserving the quality of Rhode Island's environment, maintaining the health and safety of its residents, and protecting the natural systems upon which it depends. DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife's mission is to ensure that the freshwater, marine and wildlife resources of the State of Rhode Island will be conserved and managed for equitable and sustainable use.

Updates on the 2015 WAP are being posted as they are developed and are available online at