Monday, December 22, 2008

Restoring wetlands in Rhode Island

by Darcie Collins, Ph.D., Habitat Restoration Director

Originally posted on October 21, 2008

I attended the Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) 4th annual conference held last week in Providence, Rhode Island.

The alliance members range from the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, with four full time staff who work to educate and advocate for the implementation of sound coastal policies, to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation which boasts six offices, including the Merrill Center which is a “green” Environmental Center, one of the world’s most energy-efficient buildings. However, all 11 members share the common goal of protecting and restoring or coastal resources.

The five-day conference focused on the advancement of science and the success of habitat restoration and provided a unique opportunity to blend people and policy as well as business and best practices. There were trips to the Cape Cod National Sea Shore restorations sites, urban restoration in Boston Harbor, and forums on monitoring, adaptive management and climate change.

Highlights for me included flying in a four passenger Cessna plane over restoration sites throughout Narrangansett Bay, participating in a volunteer restoration project along the Providence River, and most of all, interacting and brainstorming with fellow Habitat Restoration Directors from a variety of RAE alliance members.

I learned that a few of the non-native salt marsh plants we tirelessly attempt to eradicate here in the SF Bay Area—like cordgrass (Spartina sp.)—are among the top natives planted in salt marsh restoration projects on the East Coast! I learned the importance of coastal wetland restoration in protecting communities in the hurricane threatened landscapes of Louisiana and Texas, as well as the imperative to rebuild these important ecosystems following the devastation caused by these storms. And, I also learned that volunteer enthusiasm and Community-based Restoration Programs like ours are thriving along the West, East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.

Although the next RAE conference is not until 2010 in Galveston Bay, Texas, the coastal and estuarine habitat restoration community is further armed and ready to continue innovative exploration of best estuarine restoration and management practices.

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