Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service
CCE is involved with a number of "hands on" projects that take the staff out of the office and into our communities and natural environments. One of these projects involves the protection of an endangered species, the piping plover.
The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is listed as federally threatened and state endangered. Populations of these birds can be found around the Great Lakes, along midwestern rivers and in coastal areas of the northeast.
In the northeast, the preferred habitat for these birds is the open sand and gravel areas that are typical of many of our beaches. It is on these beaches that the birds will nest and raise their young. The adult birds, the eggs and the chicks are all similar in color and make an exact match with the color of their surroundings.
As is the case with many endangered species, one of the biggest threats to piping plovers is the loss of habitat. Since most of our coastline has been developed, much of the remaining plover habitat lies in publicly owned parkland. While this does afford the birds a certain amount of protection, it also places them in direct competition with humans. Park managers face the difficult task of balancing the needs of many different user groups with the need to protect endangered shorebirds.
This situation is made a bit more complicated by the fact that the laws designed to protect these birds do little to protect habitat, develop management plans or to provide the hands that are needed to maintain safe, viable breeding locations. It is for these reasons that CCE became actively involved in plover management.
Since 1987, CCE staff has helped other organizations and government agencies to protect endangered shorebirds - especially at Jones Beach State Park. This has been accomplished by removing litter and debris from the beach, placing symbolic fencing around nesting and foraging areas, posting signs and assisting in public education efforts.
Many staff members have participated in the cleaning and fencing activities that occur in mid to late March. In fact, this is a time of year when additional volunteers are needed!
CCE also has the ability to provide a qualified field biologist, early in the nesting season, to assist park managers by collecting data on early arrivals. Throughout the season, the biologist will continue to collect data and make recommendations to park managers on how the habitats should be managed.
One example of this protection work is the development of the Piping Plover Protection Plan for Jones Beach State Park. This plan is put into place to protect nesting shorebirds during the annual Memorial Day weekend Air Show and for the fireworks display on the 4th of July. The plan that has been developed provides exceptional protection for the birds by closing certain areas of the park during the events, conducting public education, providing monitors for the birds and providing dozens of volunteers to assist with crowd control during the events themselves. These events represent other situations where additional volunteers are always needed.
CCE has also been a key proponent of the development of a management plan for Jones Beach State Park. This process has involved several agencies and organizations and has resulted in key concepts and proposals being submitted to New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for its consideration.
CCE greatly appreciates the respect that the public has shown over the years for protected areas. It remains important for the public to continue to understand that the fencing is placed in a manner that protects the entire ecosystem while still providing ample public access to the shoreline. It is also important to note that many different species are protected by these same measures, including common, least and roseate terns; skimmers; oyster catchers; plants; and, in areas with mudflats, finfish and shellfish as well!
Updated by tbono 12/20/11