September 22, 2019

Inaugural Meeting of ‘Friends of Whalebone Cove’ Set for Today, Group Plans to Protect Famous Tidal Wetland

The newly formed friends of Whalebone Cove are working to prevent this sort of activity in the waterways.

The newly formed ‘Friends of Whalebone Cove’ are working to preserve and protect the Cove’s fragile ecosystem.

A new community conservation group to protect Whalebone Cove, a freshwater tidal marsh along the Connecticut river in Hadlyme recognized internationally for its wildlife habitat, will hold its first organizational meeting this coming Sunday, March 6.

Calling the group “Friends of Whalebone Cove” (FOWC), the organizers say their purpose is to “create a proactive, community-based constituency whose mission is to preserve and protect the habitat and fragile eco-systems of Whalebone Cove.”

Much of Whalebone Cove is a nature preserve that is part of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.gov/refuge/silvio_o_conte) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW). The Refuge owns and manages 116 acres of marshland in Whalebone Cove and upland along its shores.

Prior to being taken over by USFW, the Whalebone Cove preserve was under the protection of The Nature Conservancy.

As part of the Connecticut River estuary, the Cove is listed in the Ramsar Convention on International Wetlands (www.ramsar.org) as tidal marshlands on the Connecticut River that constitute a “wetlands complex of international importance.”

The Ramsar citation specifically notes that Whalebone Cove has one of the largest stands of wild rice in the state. Except at high tide, most of the Cove is open marshland covered by wild rice stands with relatively narrow channels where Whalebone Creek winds its way through the Cove to the main stem of the Connecticut River.

Brian Slater, one of the group’s leaders who is filing the incorporation documents creating FOWC, said the creation of the organization was conceived by many of those living around the Cove and others in the Hadlyme area because of increased speeding motor boat and jet ski traffic in the Cove in recent years, damaging wetland plants and disrupting birds and other wildlife that make the Cove their home.

Slater said “Our goal is to develop a master plan for protection of the Cove through a collaborative effort involving all those who have a stake in Whalebone Cove – homeowners along its shores and those living nearby, the Silvio O. Conte Refuge, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), hunters, fishing enthusiasts, canoeing and kayaking groups, Audubon groups, the Towns of Lyme and East Haddam, The Nature Conservancy, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, and others who want to protect the Cove.”

“Such a plan”, said Slater, “should carefully evaluate the habitat, plants, wildlife and eco-systems of the Cove and the surrounding uplands and watershed and propose an environmental management plan that can be both implemented and enforced by those entrusted with stewarding the Cove and its fragile ecosystems for the public trust.”

FOWC has written a letter to Connecticut DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee asking that he appoint a blue ribbon commission to conduct the research and develop the management plan. FOWC also asked that Commissioner Klee either deny or defer approval on any applications for new docks in the Cove until the management plan can be developed and implemented. Currently there are no docks in the Cove.

2014-06-06 10.37.22_motorboat

“We are very concerned that the installation of docks permitted for motor boat use will greatly increase the amount of motorized watercraft in the Cove,” said Slater. “There’s already too much jet ski and speeding motorboat traffic in the Cove. Those living on the Cove have even seen boats towing water skiers crisscrossing the wild rice plants at high tide. Something has to be done to protect the birds and marine life that give birth and raise their young in the Cove.”

Slater urged all those “who treasure Whalebone Cove and the many species of birds, turtles, fish, reptiles, amphibians, beaver, and rare flora and fauna that make their home in it to attend the meeting, whether they live in the Hadlyme area or beyond.”

Expected to be at the meeting will be representatives from USFW, DEEP, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, and several other conservation organizations.

The meeting will be at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 6, at Hadlyme Public Hall, 1 Day Hill Rd., in Lyme, which is at the intersection of Ferry Rd. (Rte. 148), Joshuatown Rd., and Day Hill Rd. Representatives from the Silvio O. Conte Refuge will make a short presentation on the history and mission of the Conte Refuge system, which includes nature preserves throughout the Connecticut River Valley in four states.

Refreshments will be served.

For more information, call 860-322-4021 or email fowchadlyme@gmail.com

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