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News Release

USDA awards new partnership project in Rhode Island to help mitigate climate change and protect natural resources

Diane Petit, Public Affairs Officer

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)

WARWICK, RI, April 30, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it is investing $330 million nationwide in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability, including a project in Rhode Island. Projects are awarded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnerships working at their best,” said Phou Vongkhamdy, NRCS State Conservationist in Rhode Island. “These new projects will harness the power of partnerships to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Forest Environment and ten partners will permanently protect over 2,500 acres of critical, privately owned forest lands to combat fragmentation and improve wildlife habitat. Contributions from three project partners will complement $4,033,450 in RCPP funding and protect additional lands as part of the overall initiative. Targeting tools will prioritize critical lands and conservation easements will be coupled with forest management plans and funding for forest restoration and enhancement activities.

“Rhode Island’s forests are increasingly threatened by fragmentation and development, with the greatest threat being the permanent conversion to other land uses,” said Vongkhamdy, citing a recent analysis by the University of Rhode Island that found that nearly 2,000 acres of some of the most important forestland in the state were converted to other land uses between 2011 and 2018, further reducing core forest habitat.

The 2019 Economic Impact of Rhode Island’s Forestry and Wood Products Sector report said that the annual gross output of Rhode Island’s forestry and wood products sector totals over $716 million and employs 4,844, workers including spillover effects across all sectors of the state economy. Employment in the forest consulting and logging sectors is estimated at 90 jobs with gross annual sales of $11.6 million.

The Economic Importance of Rhode Island’ Forest Based Economy 2015 report by the Northeast State Foresters Association assessed the economic importance of Rhode Island’s forests and estimated that wildlife-based recreational activities contribute some $375 million dollars in sales annually to the Rhode Island economy and 1,500 jobs with an $37 million payroll each year. State-owned management areas, land trusts, federal wildlife refuges, hunting clubs, and private and non-profit preserves all provide year-round access to forest-based recreational opportunities.

“Protecting Rhode Island forests is important and vital to our environment and our local economy because it improves wildlife habitat, provides recreation, and enhances sustainable wood production,” said Vongkhamdy.

Across America, producers are seeing the impacts from climate change. Farmers, landowners and local communities can be a major part of the effort to combat climate change. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity and natural resources including our soil, air and water. Through conservation practices and partnerships, including those through RCPP, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, producers and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA and our agencies to pursue a coordinated approach alongside USDA stakeholders, including state, local and Tribal governments. 

Through RCPP, conservation partners work in collaboration with NRCS to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners throughout the nation to implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats and increase climate resilience. 

RCPP partners offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding. These projects offer impactful and measurable outcomes. Throughout its history, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands. The Department anticipates the investments made today will generate at least $440 million in additional conservation funds by communities and other partners.

See the interactive map of all awarded RCPP projects nationwide here. There are currently 336 active RCPP projects that have engaged more than 2,000 partners. For more information, visit the RCPP website.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit