CHATHAM – Federal legislation to limit the western boundary of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge to mean low water has been filed by Congressman William Keating.
Keating had filed the legislation last fall, but had to re-file the bill with the new Congress.
The bill remove the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's authority over 3,000 to 4,000 acres of submerged lands west of the refuge, over which the agency asserted jurisdiction in last year's Monomoy comprehensive conservation plan. Town and state officials called the move an illegal taking and are taking several tacks to try to curtail the federal government's authority over the area, out of concern that traditional fisheries and other activities could be prohibited.
“For decades the Fish and Wildlife Service recognized that the western boundary of the refuge as the mean low water line and the bill will simply clarify that boundary permanent,” Town Manager Jill Goldsmith said in a press release. “The town and commonwealth remain committed to sustainable resource management as they have done for generations. We intend to visit Washington, D.C. in the near future to meet with congressional leaders to encourage their support for the bill.”
Also this week, John J. Clarke, director of advocacy for Mass Audubon, wrote to Keating to urge him not to file the legislation.
“We believe altering Monomoy's western boundary would expose wildlife and the fragile habitats upon which they depend, to new activities that may be incompatible with the refuge's mission to protect its biological integrity and environmental health,” Clarke wrote. The dispute should be resolved “by the municipality and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Chatham Town Hall. This would both preserve the integrity of the refuge while maintaining and respecting the town-federal partnership which has worked for 72 years.”
Read more in Thursday's paper.