Forest Conservation Act now law
Rep. June S. Speakman, holding bill toward the right, joins Gov. Daniel McKee, seated, after he signed the bill. Senator Frank Ciccone, the Senate sponsor, was unable to attend. Joining them are advocates for the bill, Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski holding the bill at the left; Senate President Dominick Ruggiero, third from left; House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, right of governor, and House Majority Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski, at the rear.
STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III and Rep. June S. Speakman was ceremonially signed into law yesterday, creating a forest conservation commission to seek new funding and identify incentives for landowners to maintain their land as forest.
“Especially at a time when property is so valuable, there is a lot of financial pressure on people who own forested land to sell it for development. Fortunately, many owners recognize that forests are a tremendously valuable resource that benefits all of us by providing us clean air, animal habitats and green open space,” said Representative Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol). “We need this commission to identify ways we can help and encourage owners to preserve their woodlands, because we all benefit from forest protection.”
“Rhode Island’s beautiful and vast forests are truly a remarkable natural resource for our residents and visitors and we must do everything in our power to preserve and support these habitats into the foreseeable future. This commission will allow us to protect and nurture our forests, cementing all of the environmental benefits and public good that our forests provide to our state for countless generations to come,” said Senator Ciccone (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence).
The legislation (2021-H 5760, 2021-S 0470), which Gov. Daniel McKee signed in a ceremony with the sponsors yesterday, establishes a forest conservation commission to be coordinated and staffed by the Department of Environmental Management to implement the following objectives:
· Assess and recommend new funding sources to conserve forest land across the forest continuum of rural to urban landscapes;
· Identify incentives to encourage forest landowners to maintain and manage their land and preserve forest values;
· Encourage forest conservation as a means to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change and maintain the numerous other benefits provided by forests;
· Help to increase and create new markets for Rhode Island forest products to store carbon long-term and create new jobs;
· Assess impediments to the expansion of the Rhode Island forest products industry and recommend changes to remove impediments;
· Assess means to encourage the improvement and expansion of urban and community forestry; and
· Coordinate and seek input from key stakeholders to identify other science-based initiatives to promote the conservation of Rhode Island forestland.