This past summer, I took the opportunity to intern at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) in Planning and Development and Forestry. It was an extremely exciting time when I was hired for the internship—as an environmental economics student I was eager for an outlet to apply my newfound knowledge of energy policy and start forging my career. The experience in my position was far from the passionate debate over emissions policies, fuel tax, and water regulation I had imagined, yet I found what happens in small offices is just as important as what happens in the glamor of the spotlight.
My official title was “Clerical Aide” and I bore it proudly. At first, I engaged in menial and mundane tasks: researching local watersheds, updating my knowledge on conservation easements, and watching videos about the Forest Legacy Program.
That’s when it hit me. After delving into manuals, marauding through maps, and scouring reports, I found that the heart of my internship was actually extraordinarily important for much of the preserved land in the country. What exactly is the Forest Legacy Program (FLP), you ask? The FLP is a project of the U.S. Forest Service aimed at conserving land threatened by non-forest activities, such as development. Under the FLP, the state has the opportunity to purchase land from sellers with a “conservation easement,” which means the state purchases the development rights to the land. Under these easements, the state can now protect the land into perpetuity. The forestlands often contain rare species, key habitats, aid in water protection, and are truly invaluable treasures.
After I had been really submerged in the workings of the FLP, I was tasked with actually helping plan the next land purchases the state would complete. I updated the Legacy land application and Frequently-Asked-Questions page to contain more relevant information and was also introduced to Geographic Information System (GIS) software, which I used to create maps of projected land purchases.
Though I have learned to truly dislike cubicles, my time spent at RIDEM was extremely valuable. I was completely unaware of the effort the understaffed and overtasked office that is Planning and Development put in day after day, all in the name of protecting the environment. Without these offices across the country, the United States would be in serious trouble… well, more than it is already. It was inspiring to see the commitment, and now I am continuing to strive for greatness in my own career.
By: Dalton Kell ‘16
Environmental & Natural Resource Economics Major
December 17th, 2014