Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 5, 2017

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,  

Legislation Would Cut 4,000 Acres From Massachusetts's Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Transferring Ownership of Submerged Lands to Massachusetts Would Set Dangerous Precedent Nationwide

WASHINGTON— The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a legislative hearing this afternoon on a bill introduced by Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.) that would reduce the size of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge by over two-thirds by giving nearly 4,000 acres of public submerged land and waters to the state of Massachusetts.

Although the ownership of some lands and waters that make up Monomoy is currently being disputed in federal court, this legislation would short-circuit that legal process and undermine federal authority on public lands by encouraging states to file frivolous ownership claims on public lands in the hopes that Congress will intervene.

“National wildlife refuges are treasures that all Americans can enjoy. They shouldn't be dissected to appease special interests or satisfy the short-term political agendas of a few politicians,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Slashing the size of Monomoy by two-thirds will make it nearly impossible for the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the imperiled species that call this refuge home.”

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is home to endangered piping plover and provides important habitat for the threatened red knot. In 2016, following substantial public comment and participation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a “comprehensive conservation plan” that addresses the management of the refuge for the next 15 years. The plan addresses the needs of the state of Massachusetts, including allowing for shellfish harvesting within the refuge.

“This legislation sends the wrong signal about the value and worth of our wildlife refuges,” said Hartl. “If enacted into law, it will open a door to many refuges being targeted by state governments and politicians that are hostile to federal ownership of public lands.”

The refuge system has become a target in recent years, with several bills that would weaken or dismantle wildlife refuges, including proposals to build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness Area, and legislation in the previous Congress, led by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), to dispose of thousands of acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge in Puerto Rico.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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