The 544-acre refuge also is home to the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, which nests and feeds among the grasses of the refuge’s marshes, where fresh and salt waters mingle at high tide.

In 2009, the Fund was presented with an unusual opportunity to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service add 120 acres to this important coastal refuge. The unique conservation deal we helped put together involved several partners and two separate state-owned properties: the 48-acre Camp Pastore property located in Charlestown along the northwestern shore of Watchaug Pond, and the 72-acre Stedman property located adjacent to the refuge in Kingstown. Both were owned by the State of Rhode Island, and both were in danger of being sold for development to make up for a budget shortfall.

Our Role

The Pastore property was originally part of the Burlingame State Park and was acquired by Rhode Island’s Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals (MHRH) in 1986. In 2007, MHRH recommended selling the Pastore property in an effort to address a budget deficit. Citing the property’s origin, natural resource value and proximity to existing protected lands, Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management opposed the sale and worked with others to devise a plan that would allow the land to be conserved while helping MHRH close its budget gap.

In a deal facilitated by the Fund, The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agreed to purchase the Stedman property and add it to the John H. Chafee NWR. Rhode Island’s congressional delegation helped secure funding for the purchase from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. In exchange for USFWS’ purchase of the Stedman property, the state agreed to grant a conservation easement on the Pastore property to The Nature Conservancy. The agreement protects Watchaug Pond and other natural resources and ensures the property’s permanent protection

Why This Project Matters

The Stedman property, now part of the refuge, provides habitat for more than a dozen high-priority wildlife species, including the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow and the American black duck. The forested portions act as ecological filters, preventing pollutants from reaching Pettaquamscutt Cove and the Narrow River. Protection of the property also enhances public access and recreational opportunities along the cove. Projects like this one demonstrate what we’ve known for a long time: that when partners work together, economic and conservation goals can go hand-in-hand.

“This is an innovative conservation solution that meets the fiscal demands of the state and preserves Rhode Island’s natural resources—a true balance of economics and environment.We applaud the federal and state governments for working together to make this project a success.”
–Reggie Hall, Director, Land Conservation Loan Program, The Conservation Fund

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