As piping plovers have witnessed a rather impressive growth in the number of breeding pairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MassWildlife announced statewide piping plover conservation plan to amp up their population further.
The increase to 680 breeding pairs in 2016 from 140 breeding pairs in 1986 may not be huge one considering the duration over which the increase has happened, but it is a development that needs appreciation. 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 announcement of 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.
According to Wendi Weber, the Service’s Northeast Regional Director, 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.
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 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.