§ 2-27-1. Statement of legislative purpose.
(a) The general assembly recognizes that forest land in the state has many important values, including, but not limited to: clean air, clean water, economic importance, climate change mitigation, habitat, and supporting human health and well-being. Forest land should be maintained to meet Rhode Island’s aggressive climate change goals through carbon sequestration and storage. Core forest land and connecting natural areas should be conserved to prevent ongoing fragmentation of the state’s forests. Moreover, forest conservation is necessary to protect and maintain water quality and important wildlife habitat. It is in the best interest of the people that the state identify and acquire the development rights to core and unfragmented forests so as to maintain these important forest values for future generations. Moreover, the state must develop incentives to encourage private forest land owners to maintain forests and to enhance urban and community forestry ecosystems that provide collective benefits to people and wildlife, including filtering air and water, controlling storm water, conserving energy, and a myriad of additional critical benefits.
(b) The general assembly finds that forest land is being converted to other uses because its current development value far exceeds its economic value to individual private landowners as forest; that forest land is an important part of the state’s economy, environment, and quality of life; and that forests provide important economic opportunities for many people living in the rural portions of the state. Whereas most of the development value of forests accrue to the private landowner, many of the economic benefits of retaining forests are also public benefits, some of which are not often quantified. All of this serves to undervalue forests without proper mechanisms and tools to account for public services and cost savings provided by private forests.
(c) Therefore, the general assembly establishes a forest conservation commission to be coordinated and staffed by the department of environmental management to implement the following objectives:
(1) Assess and recommend new funding sources to conserve forest land across the forest continuum of rural to urban landscapes;
(2) Identify incentives to encourage forest landowners to maintain and manage their land and preserve forest values;
(3) Encourage forest conservation as a means to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change and maintain the numerous other benefits provided by forests;
(4) Help to increase and create new markets for Rhode Island forest products to store carbon long-term and create new jobs;
(5) Assess impediments to the expansion of the Rhode Island forest products industry and recommend changes to remove impediments;
(6) Assess means to encourage the improvement and expansion of urban and community forestry; and
(7) Coordinate and seek input from key stakeholders to identify other science-based initiatives to promote the conservation of Rhode Island forestland.
History of Section.
P.L. 2021, ch. 200, § 1, effective July 7, 2021; P.L. 2021, ch. 201, § 1, effective July 7, 2021.