The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) this week announced a new website that will serve as a one-stop-shop where Rhode Islanders who fish, hunt, and boat may obtain all the licenses, permits, and tags they need to participate in these activities. 

DEM says in a press release that the single, unified hub — called Rhode Island Outdoors (RIO) — will modernize and simplify all outdoors licensing and permitting services that DEM administers. It will launch in mid-February.

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RIO will be user-friendly. RIO is being developed by NIC Rhode Island, which has been providing e-government solutions for the State of Rhode Island for 20 years and has been a DEM partner since 2002.

Users will be able to renew their licenses, permits, and tags for hunting, trapping, freshwater fishing, and saltwater fishing when RIO goes live next month. Thereafter, the website will add functionality for segments including recreational boating registration, commercial fishing licensing, ATV/snowmobile registration, and hunter safety program modules.

“Rhode Island Outdoors, or RIO, is a very big step forward to improving our customers’ user experience by providing all outdoor licensing and permitting options in a simple ‘one-stop shopping’ system,” said DEM Acting Director Terry Gray. “Modernizing Rhode Island’s government services is a priority of Governor McKee’s RI2030 plan and DEM has several major initiatives underway to improve services across the department. RIO will make license renewals speedier, more streamlined, and more hassle-free. It will allow hunters, anglers, and boaters to spend more time outside and on the water, which is where they want to be.”

“Among my first projects at NIC was working with the RIDEM to offer online freshwater fishing licenses back in 2004,” said NIC RI General Manager Tom Viall. “I am thrilled now to be part of the new RIO system. It is truly a testament to DEM’s commitment to embrace our newest technology to continually grow and improve the services they offer to customers.”

The new system will provide an easy, user-friendly interface for all DEM outdoors customers, allowing for optional automatic license renewals and aiding in the removal of duplicate accounts to ensure licenses are always up to date. It also will incorporate more immediate transaction recoveries for all authorized sales agents. Customers can purchase hunting and fishing products directly from the website or in person at more than 35 bait and gun shops and sporting goods stores across Rhode Island. In 2021, DEM issued nearly 8,000 hunting licenses, more than 25,000 freshwater fishing licenses, and almost 50,000 saltwater fishing licenses. To make the change to RIO as seamless as possible, data from the current system will be imported to RIO including customer profiles, purchase history, and hunter certification information.

One change that customers will experience the first time they use RIO is the new system will require a Social Security Number (SSN). This new feature is designed to ensure that each customer has a unique and secure account. Once the SSN has been associated with a customer, they will not be required to reenter the SSN.  While customers can use their SSN to access the system, they also can use a traditional username and password, their customer ID number, or driver’s license number. SSNs will be encrypted and securely stored. Support and training will be provided to sales agents and DEM staff to ensure a smooth transition to the new system.

NIC, as part of Tyler Technologies, is the outdoor licensing vendor for 11 states including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. NIC Rhode Island’s partnership with DEM goes back to 2002 when it developed the state’s first service allowing users to buy their fishing licenses online. In 2017, the company helped DEM launch a portal that combined saltwater and freshwater fishing and added hunting licenses to completely replace paper licensing with a 100% online system.

DEM works to protect and enhance wildlife habitat in Rhode Island forests and management areas to ensure healthier, more diverse, and abundant wildlife populations. Hunting has a long tradition in Rhode Island, supporting family customs, connecting people with nature, and attracting tourism to the state. Hunters help provide funding for wildlife conservation through their purchase of firearms and ammunition through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program (WSFR) and generate more matching federal funds ($3 federal match for every $1 state contributed) through the purchase of their state hunting licenses and permits.

DEM will post in-depth information about RIO at this web address soon: www.dem.ri.gov/huntfish.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. Although not the founder or original owner, Belmore has been with What'sUpNewp since its early beginnings in 2012.

Belmore was born in Providence, Rhode Island; grew up and graduated high school in Coventry, Rhode Island; and lived in Newport, Rhode Island for more than ten years. He currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals.

He and his wife, Jen, as well as their two dogs (Aero and June), recently moved to Alexandria, Virginia. Belmore travels back and forth to Newport every couple of weeks to cover events, work on story ideas, to meet with What'sUpNewp's on-the-ground contributors, to visit friends, and to eat as much seafood as possible.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.