This summer, the Rhode Island Woodland Partnership (RIWP)’s 2017-21 Strategic Plan was recognized with a 2017 Rhode Island Smart Growth Award for “Outstanding Smart Growth Policy/Plan.” This acknowledgement came as a surprise but affirms that forest conservation and stewardship fit into big-picture planning efforts that include cities and their surroundings. It was one of several annual awards presented by Grow Smart Rhode Island, a nonprofit that provides statewide leadership for diverse public and private interests seeking sustainable economic growth and promoting quality of place. The RIWP also received Certificates of Special Recognition from Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and U.S. Representative David Cicilline.
Despite being the second most densely populated state in the country, Rhode Island is 56% forested. Forest products contribute an estimated $710 million annually to the state’s economy and support over 3,300 jobs. Moreover, 75% of Rhode Islanders get clean and safe drinking water from reservoirs protected by forests. The state’s woodlands also play a critical role in mitigating the effects of a changing climate by storing carbon, moderating air temperatures, and reducing air pollution. Despite these and other benefits, Rhode Island’s forestlands have largely been taken for granted. The RIWP was established in 2013 in part to promote greater awareness of their contributions in both rural and urban areas.
Now including representatives from about 20 different organizations, the RIWP is a collaboration of foresters, landowners, conservationists, and professionals. Its mission is to “Increase the impact of woodland conservation efforts through coordination and information sharing among partners.” Partners came together with a shared vision and developed a comprehensive but practical strategy for raising the profile of Rhode Island’s woodlands and enhancing their protection and sustainable management. The Strategic Plan uses an impact map framework and concentrates efforts in three focus areas: Education, Policy & Economics, and Stewardship.