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Oversight Hearing on "Fish and Wildlife Service’s Proposed Comprehensive Conservation Plan and its Potential Devastating Impact on the Economy of the Town of Chincoteague, Virginia"
Friday, February 17, 2012 9:30 AM
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs
1324 Longworth House Office Building


SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISHERIES, WILDLIFE, OCEANS AND INSULAR AFFAIRS
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Friday, February 17, 2012
9:30 a.m.

OVERSIGHT HEARING ON:

  • "Fish and Wildlife Service’s Proposed Comprehensive Conservation Plan and its Potential Devastating Impact on the Economy of the Town of Chincoteague, Virginia"

OPENING STATEMENTS:

The Honorable John Fleming
Chairman

The Honorable Scott Rigell
Member of Congress

WITNESSES AND TESTIMONY:

Panel I

Wendi Weber
Regional Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Honorable Jack Tarr
Mayor
Town of Chincoteague

The Honorable Wanda Thornton
Member
Accomack County Board of Supervisors

Nancy Payne
Chincoteague, VA
(Truth in Testimony Form)

Scott Chesson
Owner
Best Western Plus Chincoteague Island
(Truth in Testimony Form)

STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD:

Resolution in Opposition to Federal Land Purchase
Accomack County Board of Supervisors

Resolution in Opposition to Federal Land Purchase
Chincoteague Town Council

Letter of Concern to Mayor Jack Tarr
Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce

BACKGROUND:

With approximately 1.4 million visitors each year, the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most visited refuges in the United States. Tourism is the most important economic activity in the Town and according to the 2000 United States Census some 30 percent of Chincoteague workers are directly dependent on tourism-related industries. Due to a special partnership with the National Park Service, the Assateague Island National Seashore administers recreational activities on a five-mile portion of the refuge, which is largely undeveloped and enjoyed by more than 5,000 people each day during the summer months. Visitors pay $8 per day to utilize eight acres of crushed clamshell parking lots which have a parking capacity of 961 vehicles and is conveniently located near the beach. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, on certain occasions they have had to rehabilitate the parking facilities because of hurricanes and storm surges. The cost of these repairs which involves the removal of excessive sand, has been between $200,000 and $700,000 per incident.

As required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service has suggested four alternatives on how this refuge can be managed in the future. Despite the statutory requirement that the public have multiple opportunities to comment and react to each of the proposed alternatives, the Fish and Wildlife Service have revealed their bias by applying for and obtaining approval of a federal grant to purchase private property more than 3 miles from the existing recreational beach with the goal of constructing parking on the site to facilitate a shuttle service. Local and federal elected officials have raised serious concerns about the shuttle service and its potential devastating impact on the town economy.

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