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FWS issues plan for Chincoteague, Wallops Island National Wildlife refuges

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A plan to govern Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge has been proposed by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). In the Federal Register of Thursday, May 15, 2014, FWS announced that it is issuing the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for the refuge. Both refuges are located in Accomack County, Virginia.

FWS is putting the plan up for public comment. The plan proposes a framework for managing the refuges. FWS staffs the 14,032-acre Chincoteague refuge but not the 373-acre Wallops Island one. The plan would last for the next 15 years.

FWS is taking pubic comments until July 14. It also plans a public meeting that it has not scheduled yet. But it will advertise the meeting in local media, through fliers, etc.

You can comment in a variety of ways. Send your thoughts by email to northeastplanning@fws.gov and put ``Chincoteague Draft CCP/EIS'' in the subject line of the message. Or you can fax them to: Attention: Thomas Bonetti, refuge planner, 413-253-8468. You can use U.S. Mail to Attention: Thomas Bonetti, refuge planner, USFWS, Northeast Regional Office, 300 Westgate Center Dr., Hadley, MA 01035. And if you want to drop them off in person, stop by during regular business hours at refuge HQ, 8231 Beach Rd., Chincoteague Island, VA 23336. If you have questions, call Bonetti, the planning team leader, at 413-253-8307.

FWS first announced its intention to develop the plan nearly four years ago. Federal law requires FWS to develop 15-year plans to govern all refuges. Plans must consider needs to protect the environment and species and needs of recreational users; including education, hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, etc.

FWS has proposed three alternatives in this case. Option one is to do nothing. This means continuing the current plan adopted in 1992.

The alternative FWS prefers is option two. This would involve managing with new goals FWS outlines in the plan. This means balancing visitor activities with habitat and species management.

The third alternative would involve emphasizing wildlife and environmental needs. FWS would focus less on visitor use. This could mean reducing public access.

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