The Nature Conservancy’s land acquisition program is driven by the best available science, focusing on natural boundaries rather than political borders. We identify places that are large enough and rich enough in plant and animal life to ensure that the full array of natural communities will be preserved if these areas are protected. The Conservancy’s four priority natural areas in Rhode Island contain the most healthy and significant forest, freshwater and coastal habitats in the state. They are:
One of the most ecologically significant locations in southern New England, Block Island provides habitat for a rich variety of migratory wildlife, and nearly 40 rare and endangered species. The Conservancy’s Block Island program has become a national model for cooperative, community-based conservation. The success of this effort is due in large part to the vision of a local resident, the late Capt. John R. Lewis. In 1972, Lewis founded the Block Island Conservancy, a grassroots land conservation organization. Since the 1980s, working with the Block Island Conservancy and numerous other private and public partners, The Nature Conservancy has helped preserve forty-three percent of the island as open space.
This 200-square-mile area spanning western Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut contains the largest unfragmented forest on the east coast, between Boston and Washington DC. Throughout the project area we are working on an array of projects and strategies aimed at linking 50,000 acres of conserved land and safeguarding cool and clean streams and ponds from development. The cornerstone of the Conservancy’s work in the Borderlands is the acquisition of the Tillinghast Pond Management Area in West Greenwich and Coventry. Now protecting just over 2,000 acres, this project was the Conservancy’s largest and most expensive in Rhode Island. The Conservancy is working with RIDEM to fill conservation gaps around the Tillinghast Pond and Arcadia Management Areas, providing critical green corridors for wildlife and reduce the threat of further fragmentation of the forests.
A rarity amid an urbanizing region, people and wildlife in all its forms continue to coexist among the lands and waters shared by Tiverton and Little Compton. Surf casting along the shore, fishing boats, stone walls and farm fields rolling to the sea, forested hillsides, flowing streams and salt marsh creeks, and settlements nestled into the landscape: the elements of nature are inseparable from any description of the eastern shore of the Sakonnet. In Tiverton, the Conservancy is spearheading a partnership with the Tiverton Land Trust and the Tiverton Open Space Commission to preserve 1,200 acres of gorgeous coastal oak/holly forest. This partnership has attracted vital support from the RIDEM Open Space program, the Champlin Foundations, the US Forest Service, and many other partners. In Little Compton, the Rhode Island Chapter has assembled an advisory committee composed of local citizens and members of the town’s two land trusts with the goal of developing strategies to conserve local open space.
This area captures the southern third of Rhode Island, from the Pawcatuck River basin in the western part of the state, across Ninigret, Quonnie, and the other coastal salt ponds, to the Narrow River, at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. Suburban sprawl is encroaching quickly on remaining open spaces in this picturesque seaside landscape. Current priorities include protecting natural areas along the Pawcatuck, along with the headwaters and mainstem of the Queen’s River, an important tributary and the cleanest and coldest river in the state. The Champlin Foundations, RIDEM’s Open Space program, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service have provided major funding for this initiative, and the Conservancy is now working with the local municipalities and individual donors to obtain additional funds for these projects.