Endangered Piping Plovers nest on Duxbury Beach - Beach closed to cars indefinitely
18 pairs of Piping Plovers have decided to make Duxbury Beach their home for the summer. Town government being what it is, the announcement that the birds' presence triggered state and Federal protection laws that are intended to limit human interaction with and damage to the Plovers and their habitat was handled in an inelegant, insensitive and blunderingly blunt fashion. Predictably, closing the beach for an indefinite time has created a human backlash of thunderstorm proportions.
As the grandson of the woman who invented the Cape Cod National Seashore so that she, and all of us in her wake, could protect and enjoy birds, I am rather biased toward the birds' needs. Nevertheless, I do believe that a bit of calm, study, flexibility and communication can result in an accommodation and compromise that will work for both avian and human species.
People are incensed that they have paid up to $300 per family for a beach sticker that allows them to drive their cars on Duxbury Beach this summer and that they won't be able to do that. Loud people are calling it fraud already, and it must be true that stickers were sold while the possibility of closure loomed, but that's a pretty silly and inflammatory word to use when no one really wants their money back. What people want is to drive on the beach.
I think most people also want to drive around the birds and avoid trampling on their nests. I don't think there are many humans who want the beach to themselves, to the exclusion of the Plovers.
As for the birds, they do need their space. They are fairly small birds, but they need more room than just a nesting spot. They are pretty birds, too, and swift, agile and sharp-looking. They need room to preen and eat and walk around, just like humans.
There was a determination that roping-off areas and hiring human monitors was going to be too difficult this year because of the numbers and placements of the nests. I don't think that the announcement about that determination or its consequences was well-presented, and that perception is widely shared. It cuts against the mandate because it leaves the impression that the public's interests were trampled upon.
It seems to me that we can limit car travel to one lane around the various nests and rope off areas through the dunes and beach areas away from the one-lane traffic to give the birds some privacy. Sure, that might mean a bit, or even a lot, of inconvenience. Designated areas for 36 adult birds and their offspring could be rather extensive without really getting in the way of humans who want access to the other seven miles of beach.
If the beach is only closed to cars (not foot traffic) or only closed until July 15, or only closed on certain days, the town should refund an appropriate part of peoples' beach fees.
Keep Duxbury Beach Open is a Facebook page that went from zero to 4,000 fans in 24 hours. Beware of flaming opinions.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife's FAQ about Piping Plover habitat and protection can be read here.
You can learn all about Piping Plovers at Plover Facts.
The Duxbury Town Manager's press release can be read here.
A map of the affected areas can be found here.
The Duxbury Beach Preservation Society wrote: We (The Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc.) are also very disappointed at the impending closure of the beach. We, along with the Duxbury Harbor Masters office, in cooperation with the Mass Fish & Wildlife Dept., work very hard every year to manage the protected birds that use our beach to lay their eggs and fledge their young. We are usually able to do this by roping off nesting areas and hiring people to ensure the birds and nests are kept safe. This year, there are 18 nests scattered all along the beach which makes that too difficult. They should all hatch at about the same time and we hope to reopen no later than July 15, based on how long it will take the baby birds to fledge. These threatened birds are protected under the Endangered Species Act and as such are afforded special consideration. I trust that this decision was not made lightly by the Town of Duxbury, which leases the beach from The Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc. More information is available in the previously posted press release. Thank you for your understanding.