Gateway Management Plan Delay — 12/9/2013

A decision on the General Management Plan for Gateway National Recreation Area, which was scheduled for about this time (mid-January 2014), has been delayed until March while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviews the GMP closely. In a December 9, 2013, letter [Fish and Wildlife Service letter to the National Park Service on the Gateway general management plan – PDF] to GNRA superintendent Jennifer Nersesian, FWS field supervisor David Stilwell points to his agency’s legal and procedural authority to review the GMP as it pertains to federally-listed species under the Endangered Species Act (1973). The FWS recommends including all of the shoreline around Breezy Point, Fort Tilden, Jacob Riis Park, Crookes Point in Great Kills Park, and the West Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge as Sensitive Resource Subzones. The letter also questions the NPS-preferred GMP Alternative B (recreation emphasis) as having potentially negative impacts on breeding piping plovers. Human disturbance to the birds in their nesting areas would no doubt increase whether the site is a public-access beach at Breezy Point or a proposed campground at Fort Tilden. Stilwell’s letter also notes the need to preserve grassland, marsh, and shoreline habitat as indicated under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) and Executive Order 13186 (Responsibilities of Federal Agencies to Protect Migratory Birds). Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is of unique significance to migratory shorebirds and waterfowl; the NPS is urged to avoid an increase in active recreation as well as access to sensitive areas. The refuge’s West Pond is described as a significant wintering waterfowl location. The need to protect breeding and overwintering grassland birds at Floyd Bennett Field is also stressed.┬áIn conclusion Stilwell’s letter observes that Alternative B of the GMP “could have substantial, long-term impacts on federal trust wildlife resources such as threatened and endangered species and migratory birds …. Alternative C may be more compatible with protection of these resources.”

Andrew Rubenfeld
Chair, Conservation Committee