Visited by increasing numbers of migrating birds and marine mammals, both rare and common, Noman’s Land is increasing in value as a wildlife refuge.
On Tuesday night officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted a public meeting on a future draft management plan for the one-square-mile island situated south of Squibnocket. Held at the Chilmark Public Library, the event saw more than half a dozen Fish and Wildlife officials met with Islanders to talk about Noman’s and the draft management plan.
The island, which until recently was used as a bombing practice range for the U.S. Navy, is closed to the public and designated as a wildlife sanctuary.
This summer a massive cleanup effort began to clear the island of old ordnance, fuel tanks and other structures.
David Barney, of the base realignment and closure program under the Navy, said that despite the cleanup the island remains unsafe for human visitors.
But with its extreme isolation, absence of human activity and location in the path of hundreds of migratory birds and marine animals, Noman’s has become a richly populated wildlife preserve.
Stephanie Koch, a biologist with Fish and Wildlife, commented on the value of the island as an uninhabited refuge. She said there are increasing numbers of nesting songbirds in residence there along with a thriving colony of nesting common terns.
The island is covered with marine shrubs and woodlands and has bogs and wetlands, including freshwater wetlands, and two large freshwater ponds. Ms. Koch said a wildlife inventory last summer documented three species of turtles: snapping, painted and spotted, along with garter snakes. There are no skunks, but there is a healthy population of muskrats and seals. There are nesting oyster catchers and evidence of the nocturnal Leach’s storm-petrel nesting in old rock walls that crisscross the island.
Ms. Koch said prescribed fire has been a useful land management tool to help keep grasslands open.
Islanders who attended the session discussed the issue of possible public access to the refuge in the future, and some wondered whether seal and cormorant populations had gotten out of hand.
A final draft management plan for Noman’s is expected to be available for public comment next summer.
“We will continue to honor its rich geologic and human history, replete with cultural traditions, legends, and military use as a bombing range,” the draft plan states.