Monomoy Comment Period Extended

The US Fish and Wildife Service is extending the comment period for a new draft plan for managing the 7,000-acre Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham.

The extension comes after Chatham Selectmen and other residents have expressed concerns with some proposed changes in how the refuge is managed.

The federal agency gave as a reason for the extension that it wants to give summer residents a chance to weigh in on the plan.

Tylar Greene, public affairs specialist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast Region, said, “We evaluated three different alternatives for how we would manage the refuge. We identify a preferred alternative and in that alternative we make different proposals on how we would manage the refuge.”

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The refuge was established in 1944 to provide habitat for migratory birds. The barrier islands of North and South Monomoy stretch for eight miles off Chatham with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Nantucket Sound on the other.

More than ten species of seabird, shorebirds and waterbirds nest on the islands, including the federally protected piping plover and roseate tern.

The refuge also supports the second largest nesting colony of common terns on the Atlantic seaboard with over 8,000 nesting pairs.

The 40-acre Morris Island is also part of the refuge. One of the proposals in the draft management plan is to prohibit dogs from Morris Island, even on leash.

Greene said, “Our primary mission is to make sure we’re managing Monomoy to benefit migratory birds and to protect wilderness resources. With that said, we know that dogs can pose a threat to birds and can sometimes disturb them. We want to make sure we do anything we can so that birds are safe and they fledge and make it off the island with as little disturbance as possible.”

As for fishing, Greene said, fishing line and hooks are okay but anything that disturbs the sea bottom is not allowed. Hand-harvesting of clams and other shellfish is allowed, she said.

The public can comment on the plan up until July 9.

Monomoy officials are holding an open house about the refuge and the draft plan on May 21.