Environment Council of Rhode Island

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Resolution on Protection of State-Owned Public Land

Pub Date: 
Monday, February 1, 2010

Whereas, the Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI) has publically supported public financing for the acquisition of open space land in Rhode Island; and

Whereas, the State of Rhode Island has acquired thousands of acres for decades for management as Parks, Beaches, Management Areas using public financing; and

Whereas, open space owned by the State of Rhode Island is held in trust for the enjoyment and benefit of all the people of the State; and

Whereas, it is important for the State of Rhode Island to maintain its commitments to ensure the long-term protection of publicly-owned lands, especially those acquired for conservation, public recreation, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, or open space purposes; and

Whereas, there are often uses proposed for State-owned open space lands that conflict with the stated values of these lands; and

Whereas, the State of Rhode Island, according to Rhode Island Public Law Chapter 42-17.9, “Preservation of State Open Space” finds and declares that “preservation of open space and the protection of natural resources values are a fundamental interest of the state an essential function of state government, that property has been acquired and managed by the state for open space values and associated natural resource purposes, and that the state needs clear, consistent, and explicit policy restricting conveyances of state property acquired or managed for open space purposes or natural resources values;” and

Whereas, ECRI recognizes that the development of renewable energy projects on public lands may be compatible with the State's goals to conserve natural resources, but such projects are not necessarily the legal equivalent of “conservation of natural resources” as that term is defined in the Preservation of State Open Space Act set forth in state law; and

Whereas, the “Preservation of State Open Space” Act required the State by March 15, 2007 to develop “by rule, integrated standards and guidelines for preserving and protecting the state's interest in open space values”; and

Whereas, no standards or guidelines have been established by the State, and

Whereas, the public should have a voice in developing such standards and guidelines.

Therefore be it Resolved, that the Environment Council of Rhode Island at its February 2010 meeting in Providence, Rhode Island calls upon the State's Department of Environmental Management and Department of Administration to promulgate the requisite “standards and guidelines” for the protection of State-owned open space and that the State give all due considerations to the following:

· The types of open space values found on each property including, but not limited to, public recreation (active and passive), wildlife habitat, agriculture, scenery, watershed protection, historic/cultural, and/or forestry;

· The need for a clear, public, transparent process for reviewing proposed changes of use of each property, including opportunities for public review and comment;

· The need to develop evaluative criteria before making decisions about amending the use or adding to the existing use of public lands;

· The source of public funding for each open space property;

· The restrictions found in the deed of each property;

· The recognition that conservation values are finite and that degradation of those values must be avoided to the maximum extent possible; and

· The need to consider reasonable alternatives to amending or adding uses to public lands, including those involving other private or public lands, and which should include consideration of the state's conservation interests and other conservation properties or assets.