Federal cuts may inhibit future of Prudence Island research center

BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — Prudence Island, located in the middle of Narragansett Bay, may only be home to about 100 residents, but it’s also the location of a very important research facility.

For nearly two decades, the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has collected information critical in the study and preservation of the bay and the organisms that live inside it. The future of the center is shrouded in uncertainty, however, as Congress reviews President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

Under Trump’s budget, $250 million for programs supporting coastal and marine management, research and education could be eliminated.

NBNERR Manager Bob Stankelis says the center relies heavily on federal funding and its programs are already lean as it stands.

“The Trump administration is proposing a full elimination or likely significant cuts, which would be detrimental to the information we collect and the products we deliver,” he said.

The bay is changing rapidly, according to Stankelis, and the data collected at the facility helps researchers understand what’s working and what’s not working.

“We collect and we measure how well the vegetation is doing, how often it gets inundated with water,” he explained. “Vegetation changes over time – how it’s handling or adapting to sea level rise.”

In addition, students and teachers often visit to learn more about the coastal environment.

“If we lose a significant portion of the funding – even 25% of the funding – there’s going to be things we have to cut,” said Stankelis. “Whether its data collection, whether its staff support, education programs, etc. Something is going to have to go.”

If staffing is cut, Stankelis says they’d lose an incredible amount of experience and understanding of the changing environment.

“The same is true in all the other coastal states, up and down the country,” he added. “Whether they’re red or blue, I think their congressional representatives are going to realize the value of what’s being done there and they’re going to stand up.”

Click here to learn more about the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.