Saturday, October 22, 2011

Management Plan for Assateague Island

I promise this is the last time I'll mention this for a while....  but the comment period for the National Fish and Wildlife Service's General Management Plan for Assateague Island (including the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge) ends on Monday, October 31, 2011. 

I have read all the plans that the NPS and FWS put forward.  They can be read at:
If you wish to add your comments, please e-mail  and type Chincoteague in the Subject line.

I find that I generally agree with the findings of the Chincoteague Town Council.  The local newspaper reported the following:
CHINCOTEAGUE - There is considerable disagreement between the U.S. Park Service plan for Assateague Island and what the Town of Chincoteague wants.
At a Chincoteague Town Council meeting earlier this month, the differences were spelled out when the council voted unanimously to respond to the Park Service alternatives with a letter that lists the areas of the alternatives that the town supports and the areas it opposes.
Town Planner William Neville provided two draft letters that had been created by the town's Planning Commission.
The first draft was a little milder than the second in its criticism of the Park Service plan.
After some discussion, the council agreed to go with the second, more critical draft.
Just prior to the council approving the second version, Town Attorney Jon Poulson suggested the council use the language "strongly oppose" instead of "oppose." Everyone on council seemed to like Poulson's proposal.
The letter states: "The alternatives planning process is frustrating because there are very good ideas mixed with very bad ideas from our perspective as the gateway community for the southern end of Assateague Island."
The letter lists seven areas of opposition to the Park Service alternative plan.
"Oppose the current direction of seashore management that favors the use of alternative transportation systems and treats the ideas as a Fundamental Value.
"Oppose the concept of a Marine Research Reserve until more information is provided. Specifically, the intended use for research and environmental education that would restrict public or commercial use of the Chincoteague Bay.
"Oppose NPS regulations for 'watch houses' that remove State authority over wastewater treatment and disposal and/or require removal of private structures that serve as a traditional cultural resource.
"Oppose Natural Resource Management policies that limit or ban commercial fishing and aquaculture with the seashore boundary.
"Oppose the policy that would permanently close areas to OSV use if coastal storms of other natural processes create breaches/inlets that cut off access to portions of the beach.
"Oppose any options that abandon the public trust and allow existing visitor use facilities and infrastructure, specifically bridge access from the mainland to Assateague Island, to be subjected to natural coastal processes without maintenance, repair or replacement.
"Oppose the NPS abandoning its responsibility to provide public access and recreation at the National Seashore in favor of passive management of natural coastal processes and promoting exclusive environmental research uses."
The letter lists 11 areas of support in the Park Service plans. The letter states, "Support for policies that defend the visitor areas in both Maryland and Virginia. a. 'Artifical dune fortification, habitat manipulations and possible beach nourishment would be used to protect the developed visitor areas from the effects of natural coastal processes and climate change/sea level rise ... storm overwash and breaches in the developed visitor areas would be repaired, while natural evolution of the island's backcountry areas would continue without interference..."
Several citizens spoke during the public comment period of the meeting citing their love of Assateague Island and support for beach replenishment.
The council's letter also listed a request that the Park Service, including NPS, initiate a study with USACE of the Tom's Cove shoreline and prepare a "socio-economic impact study that evaluates each alternative (revised or new policies and programs) with its effect on the Town of Chincoteague as a gateway community."
The council now must prepare another response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife alternative plans. That will be performed at the next council meeting.
In other council news from the meeting:
* Several people opposed the idea of removing the right to ride a horse on the beach at Assateague, as proposed in the Park Service and Fish and Wildlife plans.
* Denise Bowden, secretary of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, supported keeping 150 ponies on Assateague Island.
"We don't want to see a reduction," she said.

The above story is from the Chincoteague Beacon.

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