Date: 5/4/18 6:49 am
From: Tyler Stuart <tylerhstuart...>
Subject: [cobirds] Piping Plover habitat at John Martin Reservoir may not sustain population

This is a very popular weekend for birders to visit southeastern Colorado.
Tomorrow, May 5, is also Cornell Lab's "Global Big Day," which this year is
bringing particular attention to our world's shorebirds. Among southeastern
Colorado's specialties is Piping Plover, a federally-threatened species,
which was first documented breeding in the Lower Arkansas River Valley in
1989. Estimates of Piping Plovers in the vicinity of John Martin Reservoir
reached a high of 25 individuals in 2016, with 10 known breeding pairs,
thanks to the conservation efforts of Duane Nelson and countless volunteers.

However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife
have not support efforts in 2017 or 2018 to maintain the John Martin
Reservoir breeding grounds of Piping Plover or Least Tern (a
federally-threatened species), despite saying they would do so. As a
result, salt grass has begun to cover the rocky shoreline and islands on
which these birds nest.

Further, USACE and CPW have not taken steps to (at least) seasonally
protect the nesting areas from human activity. A Colorado birder recently
witnessed fishermen attempt to launch a boat from the only mainland plover
nesting habitat, and when the wind picked up and shifted, the fishermen
waited on the plover beach with their boat (and Piping Plovers present) for
several hours. As of yesterday (5/3), two Piping Plovers were present on
the shoreline, and nesting is imminent. Without proper signage and
protection for the birds, those fishermen would not necessarily know that
what they did is in all likelihood considered "take," and is illegal under
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

I am asking that if you have seen the plovers or terns in the past, or hope
to see them in the future, *please write to Sandy Vana-Miller
(<sandy_vana-miller...> <sandy_vana-miller...>) *at the U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service, and express your concern that USFWS is not holding the
Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Parks & Wildlife responsible for
maintaining and patrolling the habitat. Estimates in the past two weeks
suggest that only two nesting Piping Plover pairs are present, with a total
of five or six individuals at John Martin Reservoir (potentially more at
other local reservoirs, though the habitat is limited at those as well).
Least Terns have had an even more tenuous situation in SE CO in recent
years, though it is too early this year to know the exact consequences of
the lacking protection. Although, both of these populations have fluctuated
over the past three decades, and presumably before, we cannot count on
their rebound if we do not take steps to ensure their future in
southeastern Colorado.

Wherever you are birding this weekend, take some time to appreciate what an
incredible variety of birds we get to see in Colorado, and think about what
you can do to help them thrive.

Thank you,

Tyler Stuart
Colorado Springs, CO

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