Feds seek comments on Nomans Land use
The future use of an island just off the southwest corner of Martha's Vineyard that few people are allowed to visit will be the subject of an informational meeting at the Chilmark Public Library in Chilmark on Tuesday, October 14.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will hold an informational meeting from 7 to 9 pm on a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Nomans Land Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). FWS officials will talk about current refuge management and listen to public concerns and recommendations for future refuge programs.
During the 1800s, Islanders used the island to graze sheep. More recently, the Navy used it as a practice bombing range.
The Navy transferred ownership of the 628-acre island three miles south of the Vineyard to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998.
After discontinuing target practice, the Navy performed a cleanup that included an effort to locate and disarm unexploded shells and remove contaminated soil.
At the time, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), which claims rights to the island, pressed for a more extensive cleanup and a supervisory management role over the island. The town of Chilmark, which also claims ownership of Nomans Land, and Island conservationists opposed any further cleanup that would make the island safe for human visits.
FWS says that because Nomans Land provides diverse habitats including intertidal, freshwater wetland, grassland, and shrubland habitats, it serves an important role for nesting colonial waterbirds, and as a stopover for migratory birds.
Tuesday night's meeting is part of a continuing process with the goal of completing a comprehensive management plan. According to FWS, goals and objectives identified as part of an earlier process will be presented at the meeting. The next step in the process will occur when management alternatives are developed and analyzed, including current management.
"This is going to be the one opportunity people are going to have for the next ten years to steer the future of Nomans Land," said Tim Carroll, Chilmark executive secretary. "I hope they will make the effort to come out."
According to a FWS press release, the CCP for Nomans Land Island NWR "will address refuge wildlife, habitat, land protection, environmental contaminants, and the continued cleanup of unexploded ordnance by the U.S. Navy. Because the island is closed to the public, emphasis will be placed on increasing awareness to the public of its presence and ecological importance, as well as on creating other opportunities for public involvement."
The public is invited to visit the FWS website for updates and news at www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/refugeCCPs.html.