My latest for Takepart.com:
Visiting Nantucket a few years ago, I was dismayed to hear some of the island’s wealthy retirees complaining that the damned piping plovers were keeping them from their chosen fishing spots. The plovers, small beach-nesting birds, are a threatened species along the Atlantic Coast and endangered in the Midwest. And I had naively assumed that people with the money to summer in one of the world’s priciest destinations might have a little sympathy for birds that barely manage to survive at all on the open beach.
Not so. The recreational fishermen were determined to drive their off-road vehicles out the sandy spit of land called Great Point to their favorite surf-casting spots, and they were enraged that designated protected areas and buffer zones around plover nests blocked certain areas in breeding season.
So it caught my eye the other day when I saw that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is currently seeking public comment on a draft proposal to give Massachusetts beach managers more flexibility in determining how to protect piping plovers. “Flexibility” is often a code word for letting noisy constituents prevail over good science, and my suspicions increased when I read that an FWS spokeswoman was describing the change as “a solution that works for people and plovers.”
For such small and unobtrusive birds, piping plovers have elicited an extraordinary amount of animosity over the years. That’s because Read the rest of this entry »