Add Your Voice To Those Opposing Refuge Boundary Change

Opinion

Whether you're a Chatham resident, a summer visitor, or a resident of any other Cape Cod town, we've got one last errand for you to do before the big holiday weekend begins.

Before the end of the day Friday, we'd like you to consider adding your signature to the town's petition that seeks to reverse the land claim by the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Specifically, the petition asks Gov. Charlie Baker to lend his support to House bill H.R. 1157, which would maintain the refuge's western boundary at its 1944 location: the mean low water line on Monomoy Island. In so doing, it excludes about 4,000 acres of flats and submerged lands claimed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the refuge's recent comprehensive conservation plan.

Baker is a respected Republican known for commonsense leadership. He is rightfully gaining a strong national following among GOP leaders, and his voice would lend bipartisan credibility to the bill, sponsored by Democratic Congressman Bill Keating.

While complex and nuanced, the Monomoy dispute boils down to a simple concept: responsible stewardship of a natural resource. It's clear that the town, empowered by state law, has skillfully managed the rich shellfishing grounds west of Monomoy for decades. Any visitor to the area sees a place where shorebirds and marine life thrive in abundance, coexisting with the humans who are there to harvest fish and shellfish, just as their ancestors have done for centuries.

At The Cape Cod Chronicle, we embrace environmentalism as a core value of our community. Protecting wildlife and its habitat isn't just noble; it protects and sustains the local economy and our quality of life. So only with careful introspection do we disagree with groups like Mass Audubon, the Sierra Club and the Conservation Law Foundation, who oppose the bill.

It's clear that there's been a seismic shift in Washington against environmentalism. But to leverage the dispute between the town of Chatham and the Monomoy refuge in a bid to bolster national parks, marine monuments and other wildlife refuges is simply unfair. And that's what environmental groups are seeking to do. They see the town and state's position as playing into the administration's drive to lift protections from federal lands, but that's not what this is about. It's about maintaining a longtime status quo, and about who can best protect the habitat that has sustained local residents, responsibly, for generations.

The petition drive ends Friday. Sign copies at various town offices, at Cape Fishermen's Supply, or sign the online petition now.