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Contact: Carl Zimmerman, 410-629-6071
Berlin, MD - Superintendent Trish Kicklighter today announced that a new area of Assateague Island National Seashore will be temporarily closed to public use in order to protect breeding Piping Plovers.The closed area includes the portion of the public Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) route south of kilometer marker (KM) 18.0. All vehicle use south of KM 18.0 will be temporarily prohibited.The updated closure will begin on June 15th and remain in effect for up to four weeks.In order to continue to accommodate overnight camping, the designated "bullpen" camping area will be temporarily relocated north of the new closure area within the existing OSV zone.
The interior portion of northern Assateague Island, including much of the island north of Assateague State Park, has been closed to public use since April. The ocean beaches along northern Assateague Island remain open and accessible from Assateague State Park and from the boat landing area on the Island's northern tip.
The area closures are necessary to protect Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus), small migratory shorebirds that nest on open, sandy beaches and raise their chicks along the ocean, bay and interior sand flats where they feed on insects and other invertebrates.On Assateague, the Piping Plover breeding season generally runs from April through mid-August.Plovers are easily disturbed by humans and will leave their nests or feeding areas if approached.
Piping Plover are listed as "threatened with extinction" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due in part to the loss of natural breeding habitat elsewhere along its East Coast range.Assateague Island is the only nesting site in Maryland and one of the densest breeding areas in the Mid-Atlantic region, making this population critical for long-term survival of the species.
The National Park Service works hard to maintain a balance between public use and resource protection.Sometimes that coexistence is difficult to achieve, particularly during the busy summer months.Superintendent Kicklighter acknowledges that actions to safeguard sensitive species like the Piping Plover may affect some aspects of public use, but is confident that with a little patience and flexibility, visitors to Assateague Island will always have a rewarding experience.