Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Danger of Closing Due to Lack of Federal Funding

Maryland Reporter article (2018-07-26) reported that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service may close the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge due to the lack of federal funding to fill a critical manager position. The refuge is located on a 2,285-acre island near the mouth of Chester River on the Eastern Shore and attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. The island’s Kent County-maintained road and boat ramp/pier would remain open to the public but all other federally-maintained portions of the refuge would close. The refuge is currently operating through the support of volunteers, such as the Friends of Eastern Neck.

Shutting down the refuge, [Friends of Eastern Neck Vice President Phil Cicconi] said, would cause it to fall into disrepair and potentially attract relic-hunters who operate “like ninjas in the night.” The island is a cache of American Indian artifacts. Cicconi worries that thieves might strip anything of value from the visitor center building, a renovated 1930s-era hunting lodge. …

“It’s a nationwide system problem. What’s happening in Eastern Neck is happening all across the United States,” [National Wildlife Refuge Association Vice President of Government Affairs Desiree Sorenson-Groves said. “You can limp along for a few years, tightening your belt and no travel and, whenever somebody retires, you don’t fill the position. But at a point, you can’t do anymore.”