Forestry and Wildlife Habitat

URI is conducting research and outreach activities to strengthen forest management and wildlife conservation in Rhode Island.

Wildlife species in Rhode Island require a diversity of forest habitats, including both young and forests. Most forests in Rhode Island developed on abandoned agriculture land, and the maturing forests have been exposed to limited timber harvesting in recent decades. This has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the amount of young forest and a decline in the populations of many bird and other wildlife species that depend on it. Conservation agencies in Rhode Island are actively promoting forest management activities to expand the area of young forest on government and private land. However, it is important to ensure that these forest management activities do not have negative impacts on wildlife species that require large contiguous patches of mature forest. A holistic approach is needed that balances requirements of all wildlife species in Rhode Island.

URI is addressing this challenge through the following activities:

  • Assessment of the effects of forest management and forest fragmentation on wildlife species that depend on young forest habitat, such as American Woodcock and New England Cottontail, and those that depend on mature forest habitat, such as Spotted Turtles, through radio telemetry studies.
  • Assessment of the current status and spatial extent of young forest habitat in RI and changes during the past 25 years, including those caused by forest management.
  • Review of landowner involvement in creating young forest habitat in Rhode Island. Documentation of silvicultural approaches and lessons learned through these pilot activities.
  • Collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in providing support to private landowners and land trusts in implementing forest management activities to create wildlife habitat.
  • Participation in outreach events organized by the Coverts program, the Conservation Stewardship Collaborative, and the Home A Syst program.

These activities are being implemented in collaboration with several state, federal and private conservation organizations, with funding from URI, the Rhode Island Division of Environmental Management, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the USDA Forest Service.

For more information, please contact:

Scott McWilliams, Professor, URI
Christopher Riely, Forestry Specialist and Research Associate, URI
Jennifer Kilburn, Wildlife Biologist, RIDEM
Melissa Hayden, State Biologist, NRCS
Colby Slezak, PhD Candidate, URI
    • Department of Natural Resources Science
      105 Coastal Institute in Kingston
      University of Rhode Island
      Kingston, RI 02881
      Phone: (401) 874-2026
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