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Judge: Piping plover suit against state can move forward

A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit seeking to protect piping plovers from feral cats at Jones Beach State Park can move forward.

U.S. District Judge Arthur D. Spatt in Central Islip denied the state’s request to dismiss the suit filed last year by the American Bird Conservancy.

In his decision Monday, Spatt said that while ABC provided no evidence that the cats preyed on the tiny shorebirds, the suit supports a “plausible inference of harm to the survival” of the plovers.

Grant Sizemore, ABC’s director of invasive species programs, said in a statement: “Our complaint is solid, and we look forward to having the opportunity to prove our case.”

New York has about 200 breeding pairs of plovers and considers them a threatened species. Plovers also are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Virginia-based ABC sued the state for violating the federal law, seeking to force the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to remove the cats.

A spokesman for the agency had no comment Friday.

The park’s two cat colonies are part of a Trap, Neuter and Return program, and are fed by good Samaritans, said Rebekah DeHaven, senior attorney with Alley Cat Allies, which filed a brief opposing the suit.

The group noted the suit lacked any evidence that the cats are killing the plovers.

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