David Eisenhauer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 413-253-8492
Marion Larson, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 508-389-6311
The small, sandy-colored piping plover you notice on the beach this summer is one of less than 4,000 along the Atlantic Coast. In 1986, fewer than 140 breeding pairs returned north to Massachusetts, searching for space to lay eggs and safely raise young on increasingly popular beaches.
The 2016 summer season marks three milestones: three decades of intensive monitoring and management by beach managers, landowners and agencies since the plover was protected by state and federal endangered species laws; an increased population of over 680 breeding pairs; and as announced today, a plan outlining the next chapter of threatened piping plover conservation in the Commonwealth.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife have released a 26-year statewide Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that will promote long-term conservation for the shorebird while increasing the flexibility of recreational management on beaches with nesting plovers.
“We are closer than ever to recovery of piping plovers, and that success has been built over 30 years of dedicated efforts in the Commonwealth by municipal, private, federal and state landowners, all levels of government, and other organizations,” said Wendi Weber, the Service’s Northeast Regional Director. “This agreement will achieve more plover conservation over the long haul by fostering community support and carefully easing challenges caused by increasing demand for beaches and a growing shorebird population.”
Weber noted that the overwhelming success in Massachusetts has been founded on the development and implementation of beach management practices including installing symbolic fencing around nests, requiring dogs on leashes, posting warning signs and keeping activities outside fenced areas. The HCP focuses on beaches where growing plover populations affect beach managers’ abilities to meet operational and recreational needs.
“The Habitat Conservation Plan will allow beach managers to achieve a balance between endangered species restoration and public access for outdoor recreation,” said Matthew Beaton, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. “We are pleased to have been able to work successfully with our coastal communities and the federal government to create the first state conservation plan for plovers in the United States, which will ensure this endangered shorebird thrives in Massachusetts for generations to come.”
“Implementation of the plan marks a new chapter in our ability to work cooperatively, creatively, and efficiently with beach operators to maintain and improve recreational opportunities even while continuing to advance plover conservation,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director.
Developed under federal and state endangered species laws, the HCP acts as an umbrella under which individual beach managers can develop site-specific management plans choosing from a menu of options for recreational and operational management. Applicable to private, municipal and state lands only, the plan covers access 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 near plover nests.
“The increased flexibility provided by the HCP is very attractive not only to Orleans but to many other towns on the Cape and elsewhere in the state,” said David Dunford, Vice Chairperson of the Orleans Board of Selectmen. “We look forward to partnering with MassWildlife in successfully implementing this very innovative program that protects endangered species and protects the use of the beach for our citizens.”
The HCP prescribes steps to minimize effects to plovers from HCP activities, such as monitoring, escorting over-sand vehicles and limiting the amount of beach or number of pairs that can be affected each year. An annual sliding scale would enable MassWildlife to allow more activities as the statewide plover population increases, or less if it decreases. In addition to addressing access activities, the HCP takes a holistic approach to enhancing plover conservation by incorporating selective predator management, education, law enforcement and habitat improvement. By meeting statewide mitigation commitments, including strategic predator management, the HCP is expected to reduce egg and chick mortality and boost the number of young that survive.
Site-specific management plans will allow landowners to manage threats of predation with targeted, selective removals at plover beaches or provide funds to MassWildlife strategic predator management, with the goal of reducing egg and chick mortality and boosting the number of young that survive.
"Mass Audubon supports the concept of the Habitat Conservation Plan, but notes that achieving the broad goals of the plan will depend on the quality of its implementation, especially in minimizing and avoiding risks to plovers while allowing appropriate beach management flexibility,” said Katharine C. Parsons, Director of Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program. “Mass Audubon will work collaboratively with all parties to maximize the conservation value of the plan, and we strongly encourage the Governor and state legislature to provide MassWildlife the resources necessary to carry out the provisions of the Habitat Conservation Plan.”
For more information and to review the final plan and supporting documents, visit https://www.fws.gov/newengland/
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