Coastal Ecology Program & Endangered Species Program Update
The Duxbury Beach Reservation (DBR) has a three-part mission. 1) Protect the structure of Duxbury Beach, 2) Preserve its ecological resources, and 3) Maintain recreational access. The Coastal Ecology Program at Duxbury Beach was set up to address the second part of this mission. It includes beach-wide planting efforts, species inventorying, and maintenance of multiple habitat types – from rocky intertidal to dunes to saltmarsh.
One aspect of the Coastal Ecology Program is to protect the state and federally listed species on Duxbury Beach. This includes two nesting bird species. The piping plover is state and federally listed as Threatened and the least tern is state listed as a Species of Special Concern. This means DBR must obey the state and federal Endangered Species Acts or risk legal action.
Over the past three decades, DBR has worked with state and federal regulators to set up a bird monitoring and protection program. The goal of program is to keep the beach open to people where possible while sticking to the rules that protect nesting birds.
Piping plovers began nesting on Duxbury in the early 1990s – three decades ago! For most of this time, DBR was run solely by volunteers. Many monitors must be hired and supervised every spring and summer because of the size of Duxbury Beach, number of nesting birds, and amount of recreation. With no full-time staff at DBR to manage this work, the Reservation contracted the Town of Duxbury to implement the program. For almost three decades, this process has worked well. The Town hired and managed the Endangered Species Program staff, including the monitors, monitor supervisors, and endangered species officer and DBR provided the funding for staff, supplies, and equipment.
Today the Reservation faces many new challenges. Storm damage repairs are no longer funded by FEMA, increased storms and sea level rise threaten the structure of the beach, and management protocols have become more complex. The dedicated volunteers of DBR knew they needed to bring on professional management. This began in June 2017 when they hired DBR’s first ever Executive Director, Cris Luttazi. Since then, DBR has been joined by an Assistant Director, Coastal Ecology Program Coordinator, and Development Coordinator.
Professional staff gave DBR the opportunity to reassess its programs. A major step was to join the statewide Habitat Conservation Plan for Piping Plovers. This federal permit granted to Massachusetts allows sub-permittees (like DBR) to receive legal flexibility in management of piping plovers. Basically, DBR has this permit so that recreational driving (on the beach, back road, and in parking lots) can continue during the nesting season. It does not allow unlimited driving, but it helps keep parts of the beach open longer and reopen earlier. This permit has been vital to recreational access on Duxbury Beach, but it also adds a lot of complexity to management, monitoring, and reporting.
Beginning in 2020, DBR will assume management of the “Endangered Species Program” on Duxbury Beach. This means it will continue to pay for the program and will now hire and supervisor the Shorebird Monitors, Monitor Supervisors, and Field Technicians. The Reservation will work closely with Town Beach Ops staff, who continue to be responsible for beach operations, enforcement, and traffic management.
The change to program management will not alter protection and monitoring mandates. Basically, beachgoers will not see most of the changes. Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t have a totally unique summer. As always, we are working with wildlife and they are unpredictable!
Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions! The Coastal Ecology Program is currently hiring for the spring and summer. Check out job postings at www.duxburybeachreservation.org/jobs.