As a biologist and the director of Maine Audubon’s Coastal Birds Project, I see first-hand how essential the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is for protecting our most at-risk flora and fauna.
The Piping Plover is listed as a threatened species under the ESA. As a listed species, that means we get the resources and support we need to mobilize and protect these rare beach-nesting birds, and it means that government agencies, Maine Audubon, private landowners, municipalities, and volunteers all work together to ensure plovers persist in Maine. In doing so, we care for the dynamic, fragile beach ecosystems on which the birds rely. (We humans benefit from this management, too — robust dune systems and clean water make for healthy beaches that countless Mainers and tourists enjoy!)
When our partners at the Endangered Species Coalition invited me to come down to Washington, DC, last summer to meet with Maine’s congressional delegation and discuss the ESA, I knew I had to go. It meant stepping away from my work on the beaches for a few days, but it was worth it to help share my experiences doing conservation work to protect endangered species.
At the time, threats to the ESA were more abstract. Specific bills had not been proposed, and details of how some legislators might attack the ESA had not taken shape. But colleagues working on the Hill knew we needed to start educating our policymakers about how we biologists and managers use the ESA every day.
A few short months later, the threats are much more concrete: There are over one hundred bills or amendments proposed that aim to manipulate, minimize, and ultimately undo the Endangered Species Act. Hopefully, they will not gain traction and pass, but that will require communication, collaboration, and advocacy from experts and concerned citizens.
At Maine Audubon, we’re not wasting any time. On December 7th, Kristin Jackson from the Natural Resources Council of Maine and I went to Senator Angus King’s office in Augusta. We met with his staff to ensure they know how important the ESA is in Maine. I got to share my perspective that the ESA provides an opportunity for federal, state, and Maine Audubon biologists to work together with landowners and beach managers. We’ve seen results, too — we have had three consecutive years with at least 60 nesting pairs of Piping Plovers in Maine!
I feel fortunate to live and work in a state where wildlife and wildlife habitat are a shared value. I will continue to share my experiences and knowledge with our congressional delegation, and I encourage you to express your concerns as well. Be sure to sign up for our Action Alerts so that we can keep you informed about threats to the ESA, and update you on what you can do to protect Maine’s wildlife and habitat.