Specific stewardship program examples include:
Prudence Island Cooperative Weed Management Area
The establishment of a cooperative weed management area (CWMA) for the entire geographic extent of Prudence Island (55% of which is managed by NBNERR for the State of Rhode Island ) is on-going. Successfully in use throughout the western states, CWMAs are local organizations that provide a mechanism for sharing invasive plant management resources across jurisdictional boundaries in order to achieve widespread invasive plant prevention and control ( www.mipn.org ). This effort builds on an earlier partnership with our local conservancy group (Prudence Conservancy) which resulted in two informational workshops regarding invasive plant impacts, identification, and methods of control as well as the organization of a volunteer Weed Whacker group. Since its inception, the Prudence Island CWMA has adopted an island-wide control plan for autumn olive ( Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.), organized a series of volunteer Weed Whacker Workdays, hosted an alternative spring break program , promoted an Adopt-a-Spot volunteer effort , and provided educational materials to landowners in a variety of formats (e-alerts, newsletter articles, brochures). Current efforts are underway to expand the partnership to include additional private landowners and acquire access permission for the purpose of invasive plant control.
Project Partners: Prudence Conservancy, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Prudence Improvement Association, Town of Portsmouth Dept. of Public Works, Prudence Island Utility Corporation, private landowners
Pine Barrens Management
Atlantic coastal pine barrens are locally and regional rare habitat mosaics that are dependent on regular disturbance, particularly fire, to prevent progressive successional change. This habitat type supports a diversity of locally rare flora and fauna. Although management efforts have occurred at irregular intervals in the past, NBNERR has recently adopted a formal management plan and developed a set of goals designed to protect and maintain the unique ecological functions of these mosaics; specifically, to maintain habitat structure and diversity, remove invasive species, promote regrowth of representative understories, protect dependent species, and provide access for research and education. Management strategies employed to support these goals include: prescribed burns; selective and clear cutting to open the canopy, remove non-native tree species, and prevent displacement of pitch pine by hardwood species; and, harrow to expand habitat for tiger beetles dependent on barren mineral soils. Due to budget shortfalls, limited equipment access, and a small staff, the NBNERR is dependent upon its partners and volunteer effort to implement all components of their pine barrens management plan. Recent management activities have successfully created open grassland, enhanced understory growth, promoted the regeneration of pitch pine, and removed acres of non-native European larch.
Project Partners: Natural Resources Conservation Service, RIDEM Div. of Fish and Wildlife, RIDEM Div. of Forest Environment, Prudence Island Volunteer Fire Department, Woodcutting Stewards (local landowner volunteers)
Coastal Grassland Restoration
The restoration area in the vicinity of Pine Hill was historically an extensive and persistent coastal grassland which in recent decades has begun to transition to shrubland and forest. Nationally and regionally, grassland species populations are in decline as the result of habitat loss, primarily due to changes in land use practices and succession. Recent grassland restoration efforts in this area have included the mechanical clearing of 18 acres using Reserve staff and contracted labor through RIDEM Division of Fish and Wildlife as well as the removal of scattered trees by volunteers as part of the Reserves' woodcutting stewards program (a mutually beneficial land management and home fuel wood program). These initial restoration efforts represent a fraction of the 80+ acre grassland / shrubland complex to be restored in an effort to support failing populations of grassland dependent species of concern. When complete, this restoration area will represent one of the largest coastal grassland / shrubland complexes in the state.
Project Partners: RIDEM Div. of Fish and Wildlife, Audubon Society of RI
Native Forest Restoration
Native forest restoration has been planned for two plots with different land use histories and soil characteristics on properties managed by the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The primary site (4.5 acres) is located on the North End unit of the Reserve (a 720 acre management unit) and a secondary site (5.5 acres) on the South End unit of the Reserve (a 780 acre management unit). Upland forested areas on Prudence Island are highly degraded as the result of past land use practices and the presence of invasive species, particularly oriental bittersweet. Utilizing a volunteer woodcutting stewards program , the Reserve prepared the North End unit site for restoration by selectively cutting non-native tree species. Next steps in this forest restoration program included the mechanical and manual removal of invasive shrubs and vines, targeted herbicide application, and planting of an appropriate mix of native tree and shrub species. Native trees and shrubs for the initial planting were purchased through a joint fund-raising effort with the Prudence Conservancy with profits applied toward future land protection and stewardship activities of both agencies. In addition, American Chestnut seedlings grown from seed provided by the American Chestnut Foundation were planted to determine whether chestnut recovery is appropriate for this area.
Project Partners: RIDEM Div. of Forest Environment, Prudence Conservancy, American Chestnut Foundation