Who’s endangered? Piping Plovers or beach goers?

Councillors revisit the issue regarding piping plovers on Revere Beach

  A growing population of piping plovers on Revere Beach continues to cause growing pains for residents who live along Revere’s historic coastline.

Beachfront development and pollution contributed to a significant decline in piping plovers–small, sandy-colored shorebirds–following World War II.

In 1986, the birds came under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. As a result, piping plovers have rebounded in the last 20 years, though the population remains at fewer than 2000 pairs, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

But for Revere Beach resident Toni Scolaro, the birds and their expanding territory prevent her and other citizens from enjoying the beach.

“We love Revere, especially Revere Beach, but this past years the beach (has been) disgraceful,” she said to the council last Monday night. “The beach is being raped by birds and the Federal government. I’m not going to stay there. . . I don’t have anything against endangered birds, but do they have to take up the whole damned beach?”

Councillors-at-Large Robert Haas and John Correggio presented a motion last Monday night requesting the mayor to arrange a meeting with state and national legislators to develop a plan for reducing the size of the bird sanctuaries on Revere Beach. The motion specifically calls for the mayor to work with Congressman Ed Markey’s office and requests that a public meeting on the issue for residents along Revere Beach Boulevard include the attendance of Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, State Senator Anthony Petruccelli, State Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and a representative from the office of Governor Deval Patrick.

The bird sanctuaries have grown to the point where cleanup attempts on the beach by the DCR are insufficient, leaving some places along Revere’s historic coastline littered with seaweed and other debris, Councillor Haas said at Monday night’s council meeting.

“All people want is access to the water,” the councillor said.

Councillor Correggio called the issue “a major problem for Revere Beach.”

“No one can use the beach,” he said, adding that the fenced areas designed to protect the birds are “overkill.”

He asked if it would be possible for all of the birds to be moved to one area. Currently, the sanctuaries punctuate the landscape all along the beach.

Ward Five Councillor John Powers agreed. “They can have small area of one hundred to one hundred fifty square feet for the birds, but to fence off whole beach? Something has to be done. . . Citizens there pay the highest taxes in the city.”

At a meeting organized by Scolaro two weeks ago at Seaview Towers, Councillors Powers, Haas, and Zambuto met with nearly 50 residents and representatives from Congressman Markey’s office, the DCR, and the Audobon Society to discuss the issue.

But Zambuto felt that the meeting will ultimately do little for the problem. “We have very little say in this matter,” he said. He noted that the DCR completely supports the Audubon Society on the matter due to the fact that the birds are protected under Federal law.

He added that the offices of Reps. Reinstein and Markey have worked in the past to address the problem, but no results have yet to come.

“We’re looking to develop that beach,” said Ward One Councillor and Council President Richard Penta. He further said that he believes the Federal policies to protect the birds are overblown and are intruding too much into the local community. “It’s our beach and it should stay our beach,” he said.

“I don’t believe (the birds) are endangered,” Penta continued.

The biological nature of the birds may further complicate a resolution to the problem.

Piping plovers are fenced in where they nest in order to protect the birds’ eggs and breeding activity, said Katharine Parsons, Director of the Mass Audubon Society’s Coastal Waterbird Program.

She noted that there were nine pairs of adult plovers on the Revere Beach, but that number does not include the chicks.

And fencing the birds into one designated area would not work because piping plovers, especially the chicks, unlike robins, are mobile, according to Susi von Oettingen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s New England Field Office. Moreover, such an arrangement would not follow state and federal guidelines, which require room for nesting areas and buffer zones for the birds to search for food.

“We all want the fences down as soon as possible,” Oettingen said,” but there’s something amazing about that beach.”

When told that the beach provided homes for nine pairs of the plovers and their chicks, Oettingen was pleasantly surprised.

That number, she noted, marks a signifiant improvement. A few years ago, there were only 3 pairs on Revere Beach. The growth makes the area one of the most successful sites out of the 100 or so in the commonwealth.

“Revere Beach is really a saving grace. We’re counting on the birds fledging because the other sites are not going to be as successful this year,” she said.

As for the birds coming off the endangered species list, Oettingen said that “we’re still a ways from that.”

“We need to make sure the numbers are up in the rest of the range. But we can’t just walk away when the numbers are high because there will no longer be sufficient protection,” she continued.

Though Oettingen was unaware about the specific issues concerning the residents on Revere Beach, she did say, when asked about possible solutions, that communities can obtain a general conservation permit, which enables cities and towns to get involved in the protection process if the plover numbers are high enough. In doing so, residents, in cooperation with state laws, can then establish fixed areas for the birds, thereby enabling people to enjoy more of the beach.

But Oettingen added that the process is time consuming; moreover, the summer months are not a good time to initiate since it is plover season.

Revere Beach is a relatively new home for the birds.

“It’s understandable,” Oettingen said, “people haven’t had plovers there a long time and haven’t had time to get used to them.”

  • Veggrl29

    wow these town officials and residents need to do a little homework before they open their mouth about the birds needs and their management. They all sound completely stupid.

  • Salvgreen

    look at the aerial imagery with the plover fencing- approximately 10% of the beach is taken over !!! Oh no!!! 10%- dont be lazy and walk a little further!