It isn’t difficult to understand why Rhode Island is called the Ocean State. At just over 1,210 square miles, the smallest state in the nation has a disproportionately massive coastline that runs along the Narragansett Bay for nearly 400 miles.
“If you ask the average Rhode Islander from any part of the state what the most important natural resource is in the state, you’re going to get one answer – Narragansett Bay,” says Jonathan Stone, M.B.A. ’84, executive director of Save the Bay.
With abundant beaches, wildlife habitats, and an ocean that feeds the state’s essential seafood industry, Narragansett Bay brings great benefits to those who live in and visit Rhode Island; it also brings a responsibility to maintain the resource. Save the Bay has worked for 50 years to protect the water, restore habitats, educate the public, and advocate for smarter environmental policies to preserve the bay for generations of Rhode Islanders.
Since 2009, Stone has led the organization, one he has been a part of as a member and volunteer since 1989 because of a love for the ocean and commitment to help protect the resource.
“I think I can say without hesitation that everyone who works at Save the Bay views it as a privilege — we’re doing something we love,” says Stone. “From the receptionist to our educators to me and our policy team — we’re there for the mission, we just care a lot about it. More than that, we all use the resource. We have surfers, swimmers, fishermen, and sailors on staff, and what motivates all of us is getting stuff done. No one is there just to punch a clock.”
While he counts his current job as more rewarding than his time in corporate America, working in manufacturing and finance, Stone does apply what he learned there to running the largest environmental organization in Rhode Island. “My life experience prior to landing at Save the Bay has been informed by interacting with lots of different people in different disciplines and different sectors and figuring out how to connect with them on a level where we can find common ground.”
That approach serves him well as Save the Bay works with cities and towns in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that may not have the capacity to identify and focus on environmental projects.
“It’s up to outside entities like Save the Bay to identify a problem, engage the [municipality] and share how the project will benefit the community,” says Stone. “Then comes the work of cobbling together the funding for everything from feasibility studies and permitting to actual project design, and all of that has to come together and it takes a long time.”