|Short-billed Dowitchers by Rick Heil|
I had a long conversation this morning with the PRNWR's Acting Manager, Frank Drauszewski, regarding the draw down of the Bill Forward and Stage Island Pools for the migrant shorebirds. The draw downs are underway.
As birders, we know that the Newburyport area is where nature's most ambitious, long-distance migrants feed during their fall migration. Shorebird numbers are building, and these birds are an important international conservation priority that require proactive efforts as these birds travel pole to pole in migration.
Parker River NWR and Monomoy NWR are both sites in The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network which is a conservation strategy launched in 1986 with the designation of the first site, Delaware Bay. This Network aligns with the simple strategy that we must protect key habitats throughout the Americas in order to sustain healthy populations of shorebirds. WHSRN's site partners are conserving more than 32.1 million acres of shorebird habitat. WHSRN works to build a strong system of international sites used by shorebirds throughout their migratory ranges.
We know that The Great Marsh is famous for shellfish and many recreational activities which benefit our local economy. It's this marsh that also buffers against costly flood and storm damage as it filters coastal pollutants. Tourism, sportsmen, birders, anglers and recreation are all sources of money for the region. I read a study back in 1994 which was conducted by the University of New Hampshire which showed that local revenues generated by visitors to The Great Marsh amount to approximately six million dollars annually. Historically, the soft-shell clam fishery in the Parker River-Plum Island estuary is by far the most valuable commercial fishery in the state. In the mid 1990's, the commercial value of the soft-shell clam harvest in Ipswich, Rowley and Newbury was reported to be over one million dollars. The financial impact of the clamming industry is felt by the harvesters, the distributors, the processors and the restaurant owners.
The salt marsh hay framers' commercial value is enormous as well. Salt marshes were a tremendous resource to the early settlers. Salt marsh hay was used for insulation, roofing and livestock feed and bedding. There was a decline in Salt marsh haying in the 1930's because farms switched to cultivating upland hay. Today, the salt marsh hay harvests that we see along the Plum Island Turnpike are almost exclusively used for mulch.