Natural Area Closed to Vehicles to Protect Piping Plover
(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
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.