The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is proposing a new national wildlife refuge in the Northeast. The refuge would include parts of Rhode Island and would protect native shrubs and small trees.
Over the past several decades, shrubs and young trees in the Northeast have been cleared for development or grown into mature forests. As those habitats have declined, scientists say so have more than 65 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, pollinating insects and other wildlife.
“We’re proposing to establish a new national wildlife refuge – called the Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge,” said Charlie Vandemoer, who manages the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Vandemoer said the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has identified specific locations throughout New York and New England that are important for shrubs and small trees.
“Within the large area that we’ve identified, in southern Rhode Island we would be allowed to acquire 3,200 acres based on willing sellers, of course, and if we have funding available to do that,” said Vandemoer, adding that the areas would be located in Washington County, from North Kingstown down to portions of Westerly and Richmond.
By law, Vandemoer said the government would offer landowners fair market value for their properties, but acquiring 3,200 acres could take decades. In the meantime, Vandemoer said residents can help by planting native shrubs.
“Perhaps there’s a patch of milkweed that folks would put in their yards—that would really help the monarch butterfly,” he said. “So we are all in this together and everybody can help.”
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is taking public comments on the new wildlife refuge proposal until March 4.
Send your comments by email, firstname.lastname@example.org with “Great Thicket LPP” in the subject line, or by mail:
Natural Resources Planner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
300 Westgate Center Drive
Hadley, MA 01035-9589