CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND, Va. — Less than 200 miles from the nation’s capital, in a place so remote that ponies run wild, the tug of the tide is rivaled only by the pull of the federal government.
Commercial shellfish farmers still inhabit the waters of the adjacent Assateague Island National Seashore, harvesting millions of clams and oysters annually before shipping them off to wholesalers and restaurants. And vacationers still bask in the tranquility of Assateague Island’s beach, home to panoramic sunset views, a forest full of warblers and horned owls, and perhaps most important, up to 1,000 parking spots right by the shoreline.
But now two powerful federal agencies want to change — or, obliterate, depending on which “Teaguer” is talking — the delicate arrangement. The National Park Service wants to wind down commercial fishing in Assateague’s waters for an unspecified period that could be, in the agency’s words, “as long as a generation.” And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to relocate Assateague’s popular-yet-eroding beach to higher ground about 1 1/2 miles north, depriving swimmers of gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and, to the west, Tom’s Cove.