(Photo via Google Maps)
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Prudence Conservancy, announce the acquisition of nearly 93 acres of land on Prudence Island in Portsmouth. The acquisition of Eugene Chase Farm – known for its ecological and historical value – is the latest in Rhode Island’s ongoing efforts to preserve lands for public access, environmental education, and research. Since 1965, more than 64,000 acres of land have been protected under DEM land conservation programs.
“Rhode Island is well regarded for its historic parks, waterways, and iconic landscapes,” said Governor Raimondo. “These features create a sense of place that is unique to us and that we all take great pride in. As a Rhode Islander and a mom, I know how important it is to our state and our families that we preserve these special places and take care to protect our environment. It’s in all of our best interests to do so, and I applaud our federal and community partners for helping to make this acquisition possible.”
The Eugene Chase Farm, an expansive property used as farmland for more than a century until the mid 1900’s and owned by the Little Family, is undeveloped and will be incorporated into the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve; the Reserve is a state-federal partnership established for the preservation of coastal lands for research, education, and passive recreation. It currently manages more than 4,200 acres of land and estuarine habitat across Prudence, Patience, Hope and Dyer Islands. Located in the heart of Narragansett Bay, the Reserve is used to conduct research and monitor water quality and ecological conditions in the Bay to forecast environmental quality and trends. Scientists are currently assessing the impacts of sea-level rise on natural marshes which will inform strategies to help Rhode Island adapt to climate change.
“This acquisition represents an important conservation opportunity for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve System,” says Alison Krepp, program officer with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management. “As one of the last large, undeveloped, and unprotected tracts on Prudence Island, we are pleased to have the opportunity to protect such important coastal habitats for recreation, education, and research in the Narragansett Bay.”
“It is such a thrill to add this beautiful property to the Reserve,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Conservation at this scale is rarely possible, and we wouldn’t be here today were it not for the vision and determination of the Little Family. We cannot thank them enough for entrusting us with this treasure for the benefit and enjoyment of Rhode Islanders and the preservation of vital habitat for wildlife.”
“With the addition of the Chase Farm, more than 80 percent of Prudence is now protected,” continued Coit. “It’s amazing and due to a strong partnership between the family, town, land trust, conservation organizations, and state, federal government; this purchase is an outstanding example of cooperation and persistence by all to ensure this land will be protected and have a chance to thrive and carry on into the future. What a legacy!”
The $900,000 acquisition involved significant cooperation of many individuals and organizations in protecting this large tract from development in perpetuity. NOAA provided $412,500 through a National Estuarine Research Reserve grant, and the state of Rhode Island provided $147,500 through open-space bond monies. In addition, the Town of Portsmouth funded $115,000, the Prudence Conservancy provided $125,000, and $100,000 came from grant funds provided by The Nature Conservancy and The Champlin Foundations.
“The Prudence Island community has a long history of bringing partners together to protect one of Rhode Island’s incredible places,” said Terry Sullivan, Rhode Island State Director of The Nature Conservancy. “The Little property has tremendous ecological value, and it’s one of the last opportunities for large-scale land conservation on any of the Bay’s islands.”
“Without the cooperation of the family and their dedication to preserve this legacy, we would not have been able to reach this point,” said Don Friswell of the Prudence Conservancy. The Little Family worked closely with the Prudence Conservancy to preserve the property. The Prudence Conservancy will hold a conservation easement to provide an extra level of protection and oversight.
In addition to the newly-acquired parcel, there is a modest in-holding of approximately two acres previously gifted to the Prudence Conservancy by Barbara Little that preserves the historic Thomas Allin home site and its associated cellar hole, well and animal holding pen. The Allin home was the only house left standing following a skirmish with the British in 1776. Another significant feature of the property is Pulpit Rock – a site believed to be where Roger Williams preached to Native American inhabitants.