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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Rhode Island: Refuges Go Green for a Brighter Future

Shot of the visitor center
The Kettle Pond Visitor Center utilizes alternative energy sources, natural lighting and recycled materials. Photo: USFWS. Download.

In a state whose motto is “Hope,” Rhode Island national wildlife refuges are working toward a brighter future by conserving energy and reducing their carbon footprint through use of alternative energy sources, natural lighting and recycled materials.

The 14,000 square foot Kettle Pond Visitor Center building at the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex recently installed a photovoltaic system on the roof to harness clean energy from the sun. This solar power system is projected to produce about 37,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year—about 25 percent of the center’s annual power use.

“Using energy from the sun is one of the many steps being taken on the national wildlife refuges in Rhode Island to conserve and reduce our use of energy from traditional sources of fossil fuel,” said Janis Nepshinsky, visitor services manager for the Refuge Complex.

The center also gets energy from the earth through a geothermal heating and cooling system that uses the earth’s constant underground temperature to heat and cool the building. These systems are among the most efficient heating and cooling technologies available, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.


Wisconsin: Forward Thinking to Restore Native Prairie

A pheasant
Ring-necked pheasant. Photo: Dave Menke.

An innovative program to restore native prairie and slow the spread of non-native plant species that may thrive in Wisconsin’s warming climate is living up to the state’s motto “Forward” – taking bold steps to sustain natural resources into the future.

According to a comprehensive state report, Wisconsin's Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation, climate change models predict a shift to increased moisture and temperature in the decades ahead. By the middle of the century, statewide annual average temperatures are likely to warm by 6-7 degrees Fahrenheit. These changing conditions favor invasive plant and tree species over native prairie.

Tom Kerr, Manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s St. Croix Wetland Management District (District), says many invasive plants have already established themselves, mainly trees that outcompete native grasses. The District manages 7,800 acres in eight counties, providing habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds, threatened and endangered native species and resident wildlife.

Removing the scattered non-native trees – mostly non-native and invasive Russian olive, Siberian elm and buckthorn, as well as trees native to North America like green ash, box elder, pine and cottonwood – also benefits wildlife habitat for grassland species. The non-native trees combine with other trees to provide cover for predators such as skunks, raccoons and fox that threaten nesting waterfowl, pheasants and numerous non-game bird species that depend on large, open grasslands to thrive.