New Manager Appointed to Monomoy Refuge

450910609CHATHAM – A new manager has been appointed to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Matthew D. Hillman has been appointed to replace interim manager Libby Herland.

“Being born and raised in Central Massachusetts, I am thrilled to be back in my home state and excited to work in a coastal system again, particularly one as globally important and diverse as Monomoy,” Hillman said. “I look forward to using my creativity and enthusiasm to implement effective conservation measures in this new role.”

Herland remains in her role as manager of the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes Monomoy and other sites in the region.

Herland had been the point person for the controversial new comprehensive plan for Monomoy.

A draft of the plan released last year included new rules banning certain types of shellfishing as well as new boundaries that locals considered an annexation of the town’s land.

Hillman said Herland is still the point person for details of the plan as he gets up to speed.

Having started in the new position just last week, Hillman said his first order of business is reading the massive document, the first updated comprehensive plan for the refuge in decades.

“Being as this is my first week, that’s really number one on my agenda is to get through this plan, read it, understand it and then we’ll have to make decisions after that,” he said.

The plan still needs some additional work and a final signature before it is completed, he said.

“The vast majority of all the writing and of course the research has been completed, and so really there are administrative procedures that will need to take place from this point forward,” he said. “Until that time, we’re kind of still in a limbo holding state. So we’re expecting that sometime this fall. That will be signed off and at that point we’ll be able to implement some of these measures that are outlined in the plan.”

While Herland had estimated the final draft of the plan would be posted in July, Hillman said that timetable has been delayed because of changes made in the plan due to negotiations with Chatham officials.

Chatham selectmen had threatened legal action because of some aspects of the plan. But Hillman said he believes negotiations between the town and wildlife officials ironed out the disagreements.

The Monomoy refuge was established in 1944 to provide habitat for migratory birds. Sand stretches for eight miles off the elbow of Cape Cod, forming the barrier islands of North and South Monomoy. In addition to the two islands, a 40-acre unit on Morris Island is also part of the refuge. This is where the headquarters and visitor center are located. The total size of the refuge is 7,604 acres with varied habitats of oceans, salt and freshwater marshes, dunes, and freshwater ponds of which 3,244 acres are designated Wilderness. The refuge provides resting, nesting and feeding habitat for migratory birds, including the federally protected piping plover and roseate tern. More than ten species of seabirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds nest on the islands. The refuge also supports the second largest nesting colony of common terns on the Atlantic seaboard with over 8,000 nesting pairs.

Hillman has been working at wildlife refuges out west in recent years.

He comes to Chatham from Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Ventura, California, where, he said, he “initiated successful partnerships to accomplish a wide variety of wildlife and habitat management objectives for the California condor, Western snowy plover, ule elk and other sensitive species.”

Hillman also held interim manager roles as Deputy Manager at Yukon-Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Bethel, Alaska, and manager at Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge in Guadalupe, California.

He holds a bachelor’s in science degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation and a Certificate in Coastal and Marine Sciences from the University of Massachusetts Amherst along with a masters in science in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences from Virginia Tech, where he studied population dynamics of least terns and the effects of military aircraft and beach recreation on shorebirds at Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina.

To date, Hillman has published four scientific journal articles and numerous technical reports stemming from this work.

He has gained additional field experience researching red knot ecology in Virginia, forest thinning treatments on spotted owls in New Mexico, and the effects of migratory salmon mitigation on bats, small mammals, carnivores, and songbirds in Idaho.

Hillman managed beach recreation and assisted the coastal waterbird program with Mass Audubon in southeastern Massachusetts and guided public sea kayak tours in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

A prepared release from Monomoy about Hillman’s appointment stated, “His ability to implement good science, provide high-quality recreational opportunities to the public, and develop public-private partnerships will be important assets to managing Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.”

Herland said of Hillman, “Matt’s scientific and management expertise and interpersonal skills will serve the refuge and the public well in the coming years as we continue our focus on the conservation of Federal listed threatened and endangered species and other migratory birds, we increase awareness and appreciation of the Monomoy wilderness, and we provide enhanced opportunities for public use in a manner which also protects the wildlife resources that the Service has the responsibility to conserve.”

Hillman is an active member of the Association of Field Ornithologists and the Wildlife Society, where he holds a certification as Associate Wildlife Biologist. He is also a wild land firefighter and has responded to numerous wildfires throughout California in addition to assisting with prescribed burns in Massachusetts.

He enjoys kayaking, wilderness backpacking, playing baseball, fishing, historical research, and traveling with his wife and dog.

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