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CRMC, DEM expand wetland monitoring program

January 12, 2017, Wakefield – The R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), along with the R.I. Department of Environmental Management Division of Water Resources and the R.I. Natural History Survey have created a new position within DEM’s freshwater wetland monitoring and assessment program. The position will advance wetland assessment, monitoring and restoration in Rhode Island.

Since 2007, RIDEM has partnered with the RI Natural History Survey to develop methods and metrics for assessing the condition of freshwater wetlands throughout the state. Through an expanded partnership with CRMC, that work will now extend to coastal wetlands.

The effort is funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wetland Program Development Grant, and supports a full-time wetland scientist position housed at the RI Natural History Survey. RINHS has hired ecologist Tom Kutcher, formerly the Narragansett Baykeeper for Save The Bay. Before his time there, Kutcher worked at RINHS developing and using methods such as the RI Rapid Assessment Method (RIRAM) and Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) to evaluate the condition of freshwater wetlands in the state. The newly funded efforts will build upon this previous work, and expand the scope of the program to include coastal wetland systems such as freshwater tidal wetlands and salt marshes. This will help to implement components of the statewide salt marsh monitoring and assessment plan developed by the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Save The Bay and CRMC.

“Climate change is clearly visible in Rhode Island. Our coastal wetlands are being degraded by sea level rise and increased coastal flooding right before our eyes, and we need science-based tools to help minimize the ongoing damage to these valuable natural systems,” Kutcher said.  “I’m very pleased to be able to focus my efforts where they are needed most.”

There are 4,000 acres of salt marsh in Rhode Island, and 58,000 acres of vegetated freshwater wetlands in the state. Together, these areas provide a variety of important services to our communities, from water quality improvement and flood water storage to providing habitat that supports commercial and recreational fisheries.

“The CRMC is pleased to be able to partner with RIDEM and RINHS to address the urgent problem of wetland degradation and loss, especially as it relates to climate change,” said Caitlin Chaffee, policy analyst at the CRMC. “Tom brings a wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge to this monitoring and assessment effort, which will help to inform future management decisions.”

 

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