Rhode Island

(information last updated January 2019)

Ongoing Projects:

Federal Project(s) Operating in the State:


The American Woodcock Singing-ground Survey is a multi-state survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that counts male American woodcocks on designated routes along the east coast. See American Woodcock Singingground Survey, CitizenScience.gov, https://www.citizenscience.gov/catalog/182/# (last visited Feb. 7, 2019); see also American Woodcock, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., https://www.fws.gov/birds/surveys-and-data/webless-migratory-game-birds/american-woodcock.php (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).

State Project(s):

The University of Rhode Island coordinates a volunteer-based lake monitoring program as part of the Watershed Watch Program (“URI-WW”) , which is funded by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (“RIDEM”). See Lake, Pond and Reservoir Monitoring, R.I. Dep’t of Envtl. Mgmt., http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/water/quality/surface-water/lake-monitoring.php (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). This program is the primary source of water quality data on lakes and ponds in Rhode Island. See id.


RIDEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife also conducts volunteer wildlife surveys, such as the Wildlife Turkey Brood Sighting Survey. See DEM Encourages Citizen Scientists To Report Sightings Of Wild Turkey Broods, RI.gov (June 11, 2018), https://www.ri.gov/press/view/33434.

Collection of Information:

Scientific Collection Permit:

“A valid and current scientific collector’s permit issued by [RIDEM’s Division of Fish & Wildlife] is required to take, handle, or possess, for scientific, educational, management, or cultivation projects, studies or purposes, any species of mammal, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, insect, aquatic organisms, or other animal, during seasons not permitted by regulations governing holders of a valid hunting, fishing, or trapping license or other permit or license issued by the Department.” 250 R.I. Admin. Code 60-00-4.6(B); see also R.I. Admin. Code 25-8-32:1.24(L).

Trespass Laws:

Criminal Liability for Trespass Despite Lack of Notice:

No.  One entering upon the property of another must have “been forbidden to do so by the owner” to be guilty of criminal trespass.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-44-26(a).


Drone Laws:


“Subject to federal law, the state of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation shall have exclusive legal authority to regulate any object capable of flying that is remotely controlled and flies autonomously through software-controlled flight plans embedded in the object’s system by a global-position system, commonly known as unpiloted aerial vehicles, remotely piloted aircraft, drones, or unmanned aircraft systems.”  R.I. Gen. Laws § 1-8-1.

State Parks:

“Engine powered model airplanes, unmanned aircraft systems, model boats, rockets and model cars shall be operated on, over or from a Public Reservation only upon receipt of official written permission. Unmanned aircraft systems shall not be used to harass or disturb users, wildlife, or any natural resource at a Public Reservation.” R.I. Admin. Code 25-8-32:1.9(C).

Stalking Laws:

Criminal Law:

“Any person who: (1) harasses another person; or (2) willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows another person with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury, is guilty of the crime of stalking.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-59-2(a).

Civil Law:

“Any person who suffers harm pursuant to [R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-59-2] may recover his or her damages in a civil action against the offender.”  R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-2.1(a).

Use of Information: 

Although our research is incomplete, this provision could be construed to allow the use of information collected by citizens.

Explicitly Allows:

In 2004, the R.I. Legislature created the Rhode Island Environmental Monitoring Collaborative “for the purposes of organizing, coordinating, maintaining and supporting the environmental monitoring systems within [the state].”  R.I. Gen. Laws § 46-23.2-5.  It consists of 10 unpaid members, who sit ex officio from various governmental and educational organizations (e.g., RIDEM and University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography), id., one of which, University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch, is a dedicated citizen science organization.  See URI Watershed Watch, U. of R.I., http://web.uri.edu/watershedwatch/ (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).  The Collaborative “shall work with other organizations and agencies that monitor . . . watersheds to perform [its duties].”  R.I. Gen. Laws § 46-23.2-5.

Evidentiary Standards:

Pleading a Claim:

Requires certification that the claim “is well grounded in fact.”  R.I. Super. R. Civ. P. 11.

Authentication or Chain of Custody:

“The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.”  R.I. R. Evid. 901(a).

Expert Testimony:

Rhode Island Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert standard.  See Mills v. State Sales, Inc., 824 A.2d 461, 470 (R.I. 2003); In re Odell, 672 A.2d 457, 459 (R.I. 1996).


Please note that this discussion is not moderated by the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic.