State Officials: Shorebird Management Plan Working

450910609ORLEANS – A new statewide plan allowing for increased beach access around nesting piping plovers has generated a positive response, according to state officials.

In July, state and federal officials announced new policies allowing local beach managers to come up with site specific management plans to keep beaches open while endangered piping plovers are nesting. Those plans can pertain to the use of roads, parking lots and off-road vehicles in the area of chicks, along with other recreational activities and beach management around piping plover nests.

The new 26-year statewide habitat conservation plan seeks to strike a balance between providing recreational access to local beaches while still protecting the endangered shorebirds. Each summer, nesting birds force closures of local beaches and cut off access to local residents, which has resulted years of contention over the issue.

“When these things get polarized and it becomes people against the birds, no one wins,” said Jack Buckley, the Director of MassWildlife. “I think now we’re getting to a place where everybody is working in the same direction”

The statewide habitat conservation plan comes after Orleans implemented a first-of-its-kind beach access plan last year, allowing ORVs to be escorted past the endangered nesting birds. Other towns are expected to follow suit and develop their own access plans for state approval.

“From my understanding, there’s a number of other towns we’re talking to about signing-on to the permit with us,” Buckley said.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there were fewer than 140 breeding pairs that returned north to Massachusetts in 1986. Since then, the population has reached 680 pairs.

“We’ve been trying to do the right thing for the birds, and I think we’ve got there,” Buckley said. “Now that we’ve got [the population up], it’s time to get some benefits to the public.”

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