A group of hunters posing for a photo in the woods.

Your conservation efforts make RI a better place – Terry Gray, RI DEM

By Terry Gray feature to RINewsToday

Editor’s Note:  We are pleased to bring you this column, written by Terry Gray, the new Director of the RI Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), which replaces “Friday Fishing Tips” for this week– thank you to Jeff Gross for arranging for this.

In other states, there are separate government agencies that enforce environmental laws, fight climate change, manage state parks and beaches, promote local seafood and agriculture, and regulate marine fisheries. In Rhode Island, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) wears all these hats and one more too: we are the state’s fish and wildlife agency.

In this role, we have four major goals:

  1. To protect forests, farms, and other open spaces to permanently ensure the value of these lands;
  2. To improve understanding and appreciation of the stewardship of natural resources through education, outreach, and training;
  3. To support healthy and sustainable fish and wildlife populations to ensure long-term viability of the habitats on which these species and systems depend; and
  4. To encourage hunters, anglers, hikers, boaters, and all Rhode Islanders to get outside and enjoy themselves!

From coastal shrublands to forestland to grasslands to brooks and ponds stocked with trout, opportunities for hunting and fishing abound here. Investing in land and wildlife conservation remains an important focus of DEM. Through contributions from Rhode Island hunters, we’ve protected over 800 acres in the last eight years to enhance opportunities for hunting and trapping, bringing the total purchased to date with your support to more than 16,000 acres. This adds significantly to the 55,000 acres already managed by our Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).

This year, DFW is conducting a study to get feedback from hunters to better understand hunting participation, experiences, preferences, and opinions. It is DEM’s first major survey of licensed hunters in 15 years and we are aiming to reach an overall sample size of 3,000 hunters. Collecting constituent input is an essential step toward sound steward management. The survey will help improve our efforts to manage wildlife, provide hunting opportunities, and guide our stewardship policies and programs for the next 10 years and beyond.

The survey has been distributed to all hunters, ages 15 and up, who have purchased a RI hunting or trapping license within the past three years. Hunters with a valid email address or phone number in the RI hunt and fish licensing system should have received an email, text, or phone call from our partner, Responsive Management, to complete the survey. Please check for the email and participate! If you have not been contacted, send an email to [email protected] with your contact information for technical assistance to take the survey. It takes only 10 minutes to complete, and your feedback is very important in guiding future management decisions.

The support of Rhode Island hunters allows DEM to acquire and protect wildlife habitat, study local species, and educate the public on the importance of conservation and management. This work includes both game and non-game species monitoring projects, such as DFW’s exciting new community science endeavor, the Rhode Island Pollinator Atlas. DEM also is committed to building opportunities for young people to experience and enjoy the outdoors and inspiring the next generation of responsible hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, and leaders.

Enjoy the excitement of the outdoors in our beautiful state and the tranquility and connection to nature that hunting brings. And thank you for being part of conservation efforts that will provide benefits for generations to come!

Terry Gray is the Director of the RI Department of Environmental Management.

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