Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Agencies release proposal for long-term plover conservation and increased flexibility for recreation on Massachusetts beaches
Draft documents available for comment through February 19

January 20, 2016


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220


Piping plovers are protected as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Biologists stress that maintaining a strong population in Massachusetts is vital to recovering the shorebird along the Atlantic Coast. Credit: Victoria Lima/USFWS
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As a result of the long-term success in managing threatened piping plovers in Massachusetts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) are working to increase the flexibility of recreational and operational management on beaches with nesting plovers, with a focus on achieving long-term conservation for the shorebird.

The agencies have released a draft statewide habitat conservation plan and draft environmental assessment for public comment through February 22, 2016. These documents are required for MassWildlife to receive a 25-year permit under the federal Endangered Species Act. The permit would extend coverage to beach managers that develop site-specific conservation plans.

“Massachusetts has had tremendous success in providing safe places for record numbers of plovers over the past decade, and we’re excited to continue our work with the Commonwealth, towns and other partners to frame the next chapter of plover conservation,” said Wendi Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director.  “This long-term plan would help us balance recreation and conservation by increasing flexibility for beach managers and ensuring protections for the plover population that depends on these beaches every summer.”

“The ultimate test of a regulatory framework is its ability to provide flexible solutions and achieve meaningful conservation,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. “MassWildlife is pleased to work cooperatively on the development and implementation of this plan, which is based on decades of successful plover management, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation organizations, recreational users and local communities.”

The Service will accept public comments from January 21 to February 19, 2016, on MassWildlife’s draft plan and the Service’s draft environmental assessment prior to making a final decision on whether a permit can be issued. The documents and comment instructions will be available January 21 at under docket number FWS–R5–ES–2015–0182. On January 20, find the documents at and the notice of availability at

A conservation plan and permit is needed because certain activities sometimes accidentally injure or kill adult plovers and flightless chicks. The draft plan would cover activities including use of roads, parking lots and over-sand vehicles in the vicinity of flightless chicks, as well as other recreational and beach management around plover nests. The plan also prescribes steps to minimize consequent effects to plovers, such as self-escorting vehicles and monitoring. An annual sliding scale would ensure that effects to plovers are tied to the status of the statewide plover population. Selective predator management would offset effects to plovers, and additional education, outreach, law enforcement and habitat improvement would contribute to long-term statewide species’ conservation. The Service and MassWildlife previously permitted the Town of Orleans, Massachusetts, to implement in 2015 a separate site-specific plover conservation plan that covered over-sand vehicle use.

The Massachusetts piping plover population has increased from around 140 pairs in 1986 when the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act to a preliminary estimate of over 689 pairs in 2015. During that time period, a variety of  conservation partners worked together to develop and implement beach management practices that have been vital to this increase, including installing symbolic fencing around nests, requiring dogs on leashes, posting warning signs and keeping human activities outside fenced areas.

The state’s population alone has exceeded the New England recovery unit goal of 625 breeding pairs of plovers the last four years, thanks to decades of efforts by federal, state, town, and private landowners, agencies at all levels of government, and organizations. No other recovery unit along the Atlantic Coast—Eastern Canada, New York-New Jersey, and Delaware to North Carolina—has been able to consistently reach its goal in the last 10 years.


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