Gov. Baker Issues Support for Chatham in Monomoy Dispute

CHATHAM – The Town of Chatham recently received the support of Governor Charlie Baker in its effort to regain control of about 4,000 acres of submerged lands and waters taken last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The governor sent a letter to the House Committee on Natural Resources endorsing a bill filed by Congressman William Keating which would solve the disputed western boundary of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Selectmen Cory Metters said having the support of the Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito is beneficial to the town.

“They’ve been very supportive with the endorsement of the governor to help move forward William Keating’s bill,” Metters said. “It has been a great shot in the arm for us.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extended the western boundary of the refuge when it approved its new 15-year management plan last year.

Metters said the letter from the republican governor backing a bill from a democratic congressman also shows that the town has bipartisan support in the dispute.

“Our efforts to reclaim that [3,000 plus] acres off the western boundary of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge have standing,” Metters said.

Baker’s endorsement comes after he received a petition this summer from the town with more than 1,000 signatures seeking support.

In April, Keating and Chatham officials testified in a hearing before the House Federal Lands Subcommittee.

The town has also invited Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), the Federal Lands Subcommittee chairman, to visit Chatham and the refuge to witness the commitments the town has made to ensuring public access and the proper management of the areas resources.

Getting legislation passed is the best option for resolving the dispute but the town and state are still leaving litigation open as an option.

The town has been working closely with Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office, which has notified the Fish and Wildlife Service that it may file a lawsuit on the matter before federal court.

An administrative option seems much less likely as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is without a director.

The town, state and the Fish and Wildlife Service could not reach a Memorandum of Understanding last year for fishery management in the area until ownership of the disputed lands could be determined.

Since 1944 the waters have been owned by Massachusetts and have been managed by Chatham in cooperation with the state.


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