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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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June 26, 2003

Contact: Jack Kaskey

Brigantine Natural Area Closed to Vehicles to Protect Piping Plover Chicks

(03/93) TRENTON --- The Department of Environmental Protection announced today that North Brigantine Natural Area beaches will be closed to vehicles starting Sunday to protect endangered piping plover chicks, as required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Because they nest on beaches, piping plovers are among New Jersey's most imperiled species," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "Intense management measures such as beach closures are sometimes needed to help these precious shorebirds survive in our state."

North Brigantine Natural Area will be closed to vehicles from Sunday until the chicks fledge, likely sometime in mid-August. Permit holders may still drive on designated beaches at the southern end of Brigantine as well as a short stretch adjacent to the natural area.

Surf fishing on foot is still allowed at North Brigantine Natural Area. People may walk on the beach, but pets are prohibited during the plover nesting season.

Piping plovers have nested in prior years about a mile into North Brigantine Natural Area, necessitating a partial closure to vehicles. This year, two pairs of piping plovers are nesting further south, at the natural area boundary, requiring closure of the entire beach to vehicles.

Plovers nest on the beach near the dune line, feeding at the water's edge. Because the tiny chicks are flightless for about six weeks after hatching, they are highly vulnerable to vehicle strikes.

The DEP has listed the piping plover as endangered since 1979. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the species to its endangered list in 1986, classifying the Atlantic Coast population as threatened.

"Protecting piping plovers is not only a federal requirement, it is good for the state's tourism economy," Campbell said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates more than 2 million people spent $1.2 billion watching birds and other wildlife in New Jersey in 2001.

Over the past 15 years, piping plover populations in New Jersey have fluctuated between a low of 93 pairs in 1998 and a high of 138 pairs in 2002.

Piping plovers are threatened by beach recreation, development, disturbance by dogs, and predation by cats. Natural events such as flood tides and storms also threaten these beach-nesting birds.



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