Conservation Commission sets short and long-term agenda

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 5:30pm

At its most recent meeting, the members of the Conservation Commission received a list attached to a memo from the Planning Board. They may not have been the first town board or commission to receive such a list, and they surely won’t be the last.

The list comes in the wake of the adoption of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, which was approved by the Planning Board (after input from many stakeholders) and the Town Council in November 2016. A required component of the Plan is an implementation program. According to the memo, the implementation program “identifies specific action items to be completed in order to achieve the stated goals of the Plan. Responsible parties were assigned for each action item (note: most have more than one responsible party) as well as a timeframe for implementation.”

The list given to the Conservation Commission included 23 items. Land Use Administrator Jenn Brady told the commissioners “at the end of 2019 we’re looking for an update.”

One item involves reviewing state wetlands regulations that would “determine if additional protection measures are required to protect the quality and habitat of the wetlands systems on Block Island.” Others deal with mitigating impacts of rising sea levels and its potential effect on the Great Salt Pond, beach access and dune protection, controlling invasive species and pesticide use, education of homeowners and visitors, increasing recycling and composting.

Timeframes range from short-term (one to three years) to medium-term (four to six years), to long-term (seven to 10 years). Some items are denoted as “ongoing.” There will be a progress review at the end of the 2019, marking the three-year anniversary of the plan.

Although the Conservation Commission’s list is lengthy, other boards or organizations may have been tagged for the same items. Many of the goals outlined in the 10 applicable chapters of the Comprehensive Plan list several organizations or town departments as having oversight of those goals.

It should be noted that some of the items are already being addressed by organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy and the Block Island Conservancy. In concert, those two organizations have recently started a program to educate homeowners on best practices for dealing with invasive species management and creating inviting habitats for wild life. It’s one of the items on the Conservation Commission’s list as well.

One item that caught the eye of Conservation Commission Chair Ned Phillips, Jr. was reforestation. The item specifically calls for: “Explore issues related to reforestation and identify potential lands where reforestation may be a good option.”

Phillips said he keeps getting notices of grants that are available for planting trees, “but you have to have a plan.” He added that some of the grants require matching grants from the town.

“I would hope each person would pick one item,” said Phillips to his fellow commissioners.

On the meeting’s agenda was a related item: “Discussion of possible projects or goals for the upcoming year.” Phillips felt the list could provide a framework. “If we did every one, we’d be heroes.”