Public Supportive of Green Bond Proposal, $16M in Additional Funding for Land Preservation


Green bond funding helped revitalize the Woonasquatucket River. (Grace Kelly/ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — Advocates, farmers, conservationists, land trusts, and environmental groups made their case to lawmakers Wednesday night for increasing the amount of open space and land preservation funding for this year’s Green Economy Bond.

Under the bill (H7750) discussed in a 2½-hour meeting of the House Finance Committee, introduced by Rep. Megan Cotter, D-Exeter, the state would be authorized to add $16 million in bond funding on the ballot this fall to support open space acquisition, farmland preservation, and forestry management programs.

The programs were left out of the $50 million Green Economy Bond proposal authored by Gov. Dan McKee; if approved as is, it would be the first time in nearly four decades the environmental initiatives didn’t receive funding from a bond question.

Brian Daniels, director of the state Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said the bond proposals crafted by the McKee administration represented the same total amount of debt service that was coming off the books. Daniels told members of the committee the bond proposal was a “pro-growth bond” and would “advance our state’s climate goals.”

The largest portion of McKee’s green economy proposal is $20 million for road infrastructure at the Port of Davisville and Quonset business park in North Kingstown. Budget officials said the infrastructure was needed to expand the capacity of the state’s private businesses to help build offshore wind turbines slated for installation off the Rhode Island coast.

“Quonset is a key partner in meeting our climate goals,” Daniels said. “To do that, we need to support the offshore wind industry.”

Daniels also told lawmakers the lack of open space acquisition money in the green bond was intended as a “pause” while state officials sort out land-use conflicts between affordable housing and conservation.

Cotter, when introducing the bill, was more blunt in her remarks.

“Tell our farmers that we’re going to put a pause on helping them,” she told the committee. “Our forests can’t take any more pauses; we need to fund this now.”

H7750 would allocate $5 million to the Agricultural Land Preservation Commission (ALPC), the state’s chief farmland preservation program; $5 million to the Department of Environmental Management for the open space acquisition program; $3 million to support municipalities’ open space acquisition programs; and $3 million for forests and habitat management, with an eye on preventing the next wildfire.

Dozens of advocates, including farmers, land trust officials, and environmental groups, testified March 6 in support of the Green Economy Bond as proposed, as well Cotter’s $16 million add-on.

“We know that land use is complicated, and we really think there’s a place for land and water conservation, for farmland conservation, for affordable housing, for transportation, and for renewable energy if we work together,” said Kate Sayles, director of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council.

Sayles also noted that the additional money represents the same amount requested by DEM in its bond request to the governor’s office.

Farmers told committee members the state had an excellent climate for growing grass for dairy cows, and an unrivaled and thriving customer base within the state. Andrew Morley, owner of Sweet and Salty Farm in Little Compton, said he only had a farm because the land he and his partner farmed was preserved by the ALPC in the 1990s.

“The big challenge for us was finding land; Rhode Island does not have that much farmland relative to the amount of people who live here,” Morley said. “And what is here is very expensive to buy when it does come for sale.”

Only two speakers opposed any part of the green bond, or Cotter’s addition to it. Nathan Cornell, president of the Old Growth Tree Society, told lawmakers he was opposed to the $3 million for forest management, criticizing DEM’s forestry management practices.

Providence resident and longtime environmental advocate Greg Gerritt told lawmakers he supported the bond and the proposed additions, with one key exception: the $8 million allocated for the Newport Cliff Walk, which underwent two collapses in 2022, was delaying the inevitable.

“I’m probably the only person who’s going to say this, but the Cliff Walk is a dead man walking,” Gerritt said. “We’re talking about rising sea levels, we’re talking about bigger and bigger storms, you fix the Cliff Walk, you’re going to have to keep fixing the Cliff Walk. It’s not going to last, it’s time to let the ocean claim it.”

H7550 was held for further study.


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  1. This article left out how the 3$ million allocated to forests and habitat management in Cotter’s Green Bond Bill would fund destructive logging including likely clearcutting of our state forests.

    This proposal would make this a Fake Green Bond which would lead to deforestation on state land.

    Also, the title of this article claiming this Bond would fund land preservation is misleading as no forests on state land are preserved in their natural state where logging would be prohibited.

    This Bond proposal would just acquire land for the timber industry to log leading to deforestation.

    Why is ecoRI so reluctant to write about Representative Cotter’s Timber Industry scheme and all her bills introduced this year to expand and enrich the timber industry in Rhode Island?

    Historically, ecoRI has been excellent in writing about environmental issues most media won’t even cover, but ecoRI now just writing timber industry soundbites is very disappointing.

    Nathan Cornell

    President of the Old Growth Tree Society

  2. Glad to read of strong support for continuing natural area and farmland protection, but sorry that nobody advocated for including bicycle infrastructure in the Green Bond as was done in 2016, 2018. RIDOT is doing next to nothing for bicycling and it seems DEM has lost interest too even though a bicycle is the closest thing to a “zero-emission” vehicle. We still need to connect the Providence bike paths, have the Blackstone Bikeway finally reach the centers of struggling communities Woonsocket, Pawtucket, repair the East Bay bike path bridges, have the South County path reach the shoreline, connect Tiverton to Fall River via the abandoned rail line, finally do something on Aquidneck Island… If DOT won’t do it, the bond would have been an opportunity

  3. The Governor does not understand where the economy is going. His pro growth strategy is primarily to line the pockets of his fossil fuel cronies. preserving farm land and forests are among the best things we can do for our long term prosperity. Our erconomic future is to focus on a climate justice economy.

  4. Greg Gerritt’s assessment of trying to shore up Newport’s Cliff Walk is common sense. Newport is similarly attempting to stem the tide with an estimated $2.3 million multi-pronged approach to replace the seawall at often-flooded King Park (length of Wellington Ave., south end of harbor where hundreds of cruise ships come and go). The superintendent of Parks, Grounds, and Forestry is quoted “This is Plan B … Hopefully, we’re not going to have to go to Plan C.” (NTW 2/22/24) Hoping’s not going to cut it and a plan much further down the alphabet needs to be in sight. Easton’s Beach and its infrastructure issues – “serve as a microcosm for the woes the city faces.” (NTW 2/8/24). Interim city manager Laura Sitrin has proposed (January) creating a “Resilience and Sustainability Department” led by a senior-level director. Meanwhile …

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