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RI Coastal Resources Management Council preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

CRMC executive director receives leadership award

May 8, 2018, WAKEFIELD – Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council’s Executive Director Grover J. Fugate was recently honored for his work on climate change adaptation in New England with the New England Regional Adaptation Leadership Award given by the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP).

Grover Fugate

Fugate was honored on May 1 at the Antioch University Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience’s “2018 Local Solutions: Eastern Climate Preparedness Conference” in New Hampshire. The ASAP Regional Adaptation Leadership Award (RALA) recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves in the climate change adaptation field through exceptional leadership. It recognizes the fact that “deliberate, proactive adaptation, preparedness, and resilience-building is a change process, a deviation from business-as-usual, and a courageous act of doing something new and different,” according to the ASAP. “At its heart are individuals who make this change happen, sometimes with very few resources.”

Fugate, who has served as CRMC’s executive director since 1986, was one of three people chosen from the New England area, selected by a committee of adaptation professionals from across the region. The University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center, with which the CRMC works very closely to develop many of its policy initiatives, including its Special Area Management Plans (SAMPs) and most recent Rhode Island Shoreline Change (Beach) SAMP, nominated Fugate.

“In Rhode Island, Grover Fugate has become synonymous with the concept of ‘coastal community resiliency.’ His vision, even before Superstorm Sandy significantly changed or damaged major portions of the state’s southern coastline, has for nearly two decades, focused quite closely on the need to start preparing coastal communities now for the impacts of sea level rise and strong storms to come,” the nomination stated. “Grover’s vision is for the state’s 21 coastal communities to, with the state’s support and guidance, adopt wise policies and practical plans for integrating climate adaptation approaches into all aspects of community planning.”

Attacking the issues of climate change and sea level rise from the local level, up is the most realistic way to ensure that coastal residents are not only able to prepare for climate change, but to grow with the challenges (and opportunities) that come with it, Fugate said. The Beach SAMP, the state’s first comprehensive set of adaptation and resilience recommendations developed to support local and state efforts to meet those challenges, is the result of that philosophy.

“Grover’s commitment to approaching adaptation as a systemic issue is exemplified by the wide range of projects and activities that are embraced under the auspices of the Beach SAMP,” the CRC nomination stated. “Through the Beach SAMP, a post-Sandy initiative, the public, private, community and academic sectors are collaboratively investigating, testing and choosing policies, tools and techniques to directly benefit coastal community planning from adaptation and resiliency standpoints.”

Under Fugate’s leadership, the SAMP team has developed invaluable tools for addressing the needs of all stakeholders – STORMTOOLS and the Coastal Environmental Risk Index (CERI). Both mapping tools provide all of the sectors mentioned above with the latest information about sea level rise, storm surge, erosion and storm damage predictions, under different storm event scenarios and sea level rise. It is being integrated at the municipal level, and has been utilized for a number of projects reviewed and permitted by the CRMC.

CRMC’s executive director is considered an expert on Rhode Island’s climate change narrative, and even travels all over the state with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to speak to different groups and associations about coastal resilience and adaptation in the face of climate change. He will also be conducting a webinar later this month for all three California coastal agencies – the California Coastal Commission, California State Coastal Conservancy, and Bay Conservation and Development Commission – the nation’s leading state on many environmental, adaptation and resilience, and climate change initiatives. The U.S. Virgin Islands is also interested in learning from the Beach SAMP and adopting something similar.

“Grover is a doer, and is widely recognized, both in Rhode Island and beyond, as a regulator who makes sure that policies have ‘teeth,’ and are useful and practical tools for the coastal communities that his state agency serves,” according to URI CRC. “He is the face of CRMC, and is widely considered in New England and the nation to be cutting an innovative yet practical path for community based resiliency practice. He is clearly Rhode Island’s leading voice in climate change resiliency and adaptation efforts, and is highly deserving of this award.”

“This award, in our case, isn’t meant to be for one person,” Fugate said. “It really is for the entire Beach SAMP team, and a testament to all of the hard work and dedication that has gone into developing that document. It is an honor for us all.”

Fugate, in addition to the day-to-day operation of the state’s coastal management agency, is also the Council and state’s representative on a number of boards, commissions, task forces, and other related organizations. He is a frequent guest lecturer at the University of Rhode Island and Roger Williams University, and is the recipient of a number of citations and awards for his more than 30 years of coastal management and policy. He has also led the state and nation in his development of CRMC Special Area Management Plans (SAMPs), nationally and internationally recognized coastal management tools, one of which has received international acclaim (the Rhode Island Ocean SAMP). Because of his leadership in developing that SAMP, Fugate earned awards including the 2010 Susan Snow-Cotter Award for Excellence in Ocean and Coastal Resource Management from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Peter Benchley Ocean Award, the world’s preeminent ocean honors. He also received the 2008 Rhode Island Sea Grant Lifetime Achievement Award. Fugate has also published articles on various coastal and resource management topics.


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