Around the Valley: Forest report, REAL ID & Entrepreneurship Challenge


The Value of Forests

Just on the heels of an event in North Smithfield aimed at helping residents protect privately-owned forests, the RI Tree Council and the RI Forest Conservation Advisory Committee have released a report outlining the benefits provided by forestland.

According to the 138-page document released this week, Rhode Island’s 386,373 acres of forest protect drinking water, filter air, mitigate climate change, provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, promote health, harbor wildlife, and create economic value.

The study was funded through the Department of Environmental Management with a grant from the US Forest Service.

The report recommends numerous strategies for promoting forest conservation in Rhode Island, such as creating dedicated funding sources, incorporating smart growth principles into land use planning and permitting, supporting market-based incentives, and actively managing rural and urban forestland to maximize forest value.

Calling all veterans

RI Elder Info will be hosting Calling All Veterans Day on Saturday, May 9 at the URI Ryan Center on the concourse.

According to RI Elder Info founder Deb Burton, Calling All Veterans Day is an opportunity to share information on resources and benefits that will empower independent aging for Veterans, their spouses or their aging parents. Breakout sessions will be held throughout the event to provide more information to attendees. The schedule is listed on

“Calling All Veterans Day is an opportunity for community members to gather information and resources that empower their own independent aging,” said Burton. Burton said she will be calling specific attention to organizations that serve Veterans and are in need of volunteers.

“One of my goals is that this event will create some ‘matchmaking’ between organizations in need of volunteers and potential volunteers,” Burton said.

Entrepreneurship Challenge

Lt. Governor Daniel McKee has announced Rhode Island’s third Entrepreneurship Challenge, a business pitch competition open to high school students across the state. This year, participants will compete for $14,000 in scholarships, the largest amount since the program launched in 2018.

Last year, North Smithfield High School students Kate and Kristianna Lapierre were among the winners, securing a $2,500 scholarship through the contest with their business plan for Twin Skin.

“The future of Rhode Island’s economy depends on our ability to cultivate and retain young, entrepreneurial talent. The Lt. Governor’s Entrepreneurship Challenge is our way of letting young innovators know that we want and need their skills in our state,” McKee said. “I am proud of the team that helps make the challenge a reality. The Credit Unions of Rhode Island and other local businesses donate the scholarship funds for students; small business owners help us evaluate business plans and Millennial Rhode Island supports the growth and development of the program year after year.”

Rhode Island students in grades 9-12 can take the challenge by submitting a business plan to the Lt. Governor’s Office by Friday, April 10, 2020. The top five students or student teams advance to a Shark Tank-style business pitch competition at the New England Institute of Technology in May 2020 where a panel of judges awards scholarships based on pitch scores. Students can apply and find guidelines for the challenge at

Since 2018, over 90 students have participated in the challenge and 19 student finalists have received over $20,000 in scholarships.

McKee said he modeled the program after the Kentucky Lt. Governor’s Entrepreneurship Challenge, an initiative he learned about during his time as Chair of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.


The R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles will launch a pilot customer service program at its Cranston office beginning Saturday, Feb. 22, to assist Rhode Islanders seeking REAL ID licenses and REAL ID identification cards.

Beginning on Oct. 1, 2020, the ID will be required for boarding on all federally regulated commercial aircraft

As part of a limited pilot program, the Cranston office will open on select Saturdays of each month, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Customers should visit the DMV website for available times and more information.

The DMV has added REAL ID transactions to its online reservations program in conjunction with this pilot service program, with the first appointments for REAL ID service available on Feb. 22. Customers who would like to participate in the pilot program can make a reservation, here:

The weekend service is limited to REAL ID transactions for those obtaining or renewing passenger-vehicle driver licenses and state IDs. Weekend service will be by reservation only. Walk-in service will not be offered. Commercial Driver License service appointments, including for REAL ID, are available Monday-Friday.

For those not wishing to take advantage of this new customer-service amenity, walk-in service for REAL ID transactions remains available at all DMV branches and AAA offices (members only) during standard operating hours.

To see more about the REAL ID reservation service, answers to common questions about REAL ID, document requirements, and a handy wizard that can help you decide whether a REAL ID is right for you, visit

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