Chatham and Federal Officials to Continue Refuge Boundary Dispute

Chatham-Photowalk-MAY-2016.-SEALS-HAULED-OUT-OFF-LIGHTHOUSE-BEACH--350x350CHATHAM – Selectmen in Chatham expect to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials this week to discuss a resolution to the dispute over the western boundary of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Chatham officials contend that the submerged lands west of Monomoy should remain under the control of the state.

The new 15-year management plan of the refuge, which was approved this year, includes about 4,000 acres of water west of Monomoy to fall under regulatory control of the Fish and Wildlife Service. The town and state previously oversaw the area.

Chatham Selectman Seth Taylor does not believe there will be an agreement.

“Fundamentally, I do not believe the Fish and Wildlife Service will grant the things that we need, which at the minimum would be an absolute equal place at the table regarding any decisions of additional regulation or enforcement actions or management actions that might be contemplated in the submerged lands west of Monomoy,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the town’s position will not change.

“Those submerged lands and the open waters are the property of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth and the town jointly have managed those areas very, very well,” Taylor said.

Taylor said U.S. Fish and Wildlife did not have a full-time position at Monomoy until the late 1980s.

The town and the Fish and Wildlife Service were able to come to an agreement on the eastern boundary of the refuge.

“It resolved the problems that we saw when they initially came up with the idea that they thought they were going to own all of South Beach,” Taylor said. “We effective drew an administrative boundary down there east of which is Chatham west of which we recognize to be the refuge.”

Taylor said they weren’t prepared to even come halfway with the town on the refuge’s western boundary.

“It really is, simply put, a matter of ownership,” he said.

If an agreement cannot be met, Congressman William Keating will file legislation which would set the western boundary at mean low water when Congress returns to session early in September.

Taylor is also concerned about claims from wildlife officials that the town is attempting to reduce the size of the refuge by half, which he said is not true.

“We’re not,” he said. “What we want is to have the refuge remain intact as it was originally intended, to be 3,000 acres more or less, and that the Fish and Wildlife Service owns, controls and regulates to mean low water.”

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter  

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