The National Park Service has announced the beginning of the planning process for the West Pond at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. As you are probably aware, the West Pond was breached in October 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. The breach opened the pond to the tides and destroyed the valuable freshwater habitat that was one of New York State's premier birding destinations. I am writing to alert you the upcoming opportunities for public comment on the future of the West Pond, and to ask that you reach out to inform your members. Please feel free to use the material below in your outreach.
Birders must speak up to ensure the pond is restored to support birds and wildlife. The Birders' Coalition for Gateway, in which NYSOA is participating, has taken the position that the pond should be restored to the habitat values that existed after the West Pond was created in the 1950s. This includes a large freshwater pond and emergent wetlands with water level regulation to encourage seasonal shorebird and waterfowl use; and open dune to encourage tern and Diamondback Terrapin nesting. High salt marsh is uncommon in Jamaica Bay and is another habitat element of interest for restoration of the West Pond. Currently the breach in the dike of the West Pond has turned the pond into a mudflat and caused the destruction of vegetation that is not salt tolerant. The former open dune area, called Terrapin Point, is overgrown into a dense thicket due to years of neglect by the Park Service. Thus the area has virtually no habitat value and does not contribute to ecosystem diversity.
So what can birders do?
- Attend the public scoping meeting on July 17 at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (see information attached >here<).
- Sign the Birders' Coalition's petition at http://tinyurl.com/WestPondPetition
- Write to Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Jennifer Nersesian and other public officials and tell them you want the West Pond restored for birds and wildlife.
Additional information on the public scoping process and the July 17 public meeting is attached. Public comments are being accepted through July 30, 2014. The full recommendations for restoration of the West Pond by the Birders' Coalition for Gateway can be found on New York City Audubon's web site at http://tinyurl.com/NYCAudubonWestPond
A variety of interest groups will undoubtedly be very vocal in the upcoming scoping process. The National Park Service has a history of giving priority to active recreational interests at the expense of wildlife in the Gateway National Recreation Area.
It is critical that birders participate and make their views known!