Public comment critical to refuge plan
The long-awaited comprehensive plan for Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is now in draft form so the public can read it and see federal proposals for the future of Prime Hook.
The draft plan and environmental impact statement form the basis for deciding future management strategies for the refuge. A plan summary contains a draft vision statement that will eventually guide future management.
It reads: Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge will comprise a variety of Delmarva coastal plain habitats, such as barrier island beach, freshwater and tidal wetlands, grasslands, shrubland and forest. The refuge will manage, maintain, enhance, and where appropriate, restore habitats for native plants and animals, with an emphasis on migrating birds and rare species. A balanced approach will be used to ensure all wildlife dependent recreational users experience quality opportunities.
The refuge will be a leader in conservation, research and community partnerships, adapting to physical and community changes as necessary to maintain the ecological integrity of the refuge and build a stewardship ethic for current and future generations. While deep disagreements will continue over specifics and how the plan affects Delaware Bay communities, this vision reveals a serious effort to manage the refuge in a responsible, thoughtful manner that recognizes the complexity of shoreline management and the competing interests of wildlife, rare species, hunters, refuge visitors and taxpayers.
Federal officials have announced the plan they prefer. Now it’s up to the public to respond. Serious questions remain in play: Should any freshwater ponds be preserved? Should the bayfront dune line be enhanced? Should cooperative farming be reinstated? Should lethal hunts and insecticides be used? Should hunting blinds be maintained?
It’s critical that those who know and love the refuge bring their knowledge and insights to the planning process. This is not the time to complain. It’s the time for reasoned proposals that demonstrate an understanding of the refuge ecosystem. One thing everyone can agree on is that it’s time to move forward.
On Sunday, June 17, visitors are invited to an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. at the refuge office. A formal meeting is set 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, in the Cape Henlopen High Theater. Comment on the plan will be accepted until Aug. 6. 2012.