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Plovers' presence shuts beaches to fireworks spectators

Two East Hampton Town beaches will be closed to Saturday's annual fireworks display over Gardiner’s Bay due to the presence of nesting piping plovers, a protected endangered species, town officials said Friday.

Beach access for the Devon Yacht Club’s fireworks show will be shut to both vehicles and pedestrians in the area between Little Albert’s and Fresh Pond beaches, officials said. Police blockades and security guards will be in place.

Town officials said the plan to protect the plovers was established with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Grucci Fireworks, which is presenting the show. The position of the fireworks barge has been adjusted south, farther from the piping plovers.

Pedestrian and vehicle beach access will be permitted only at the end of Albert’s Landing Road. Pedestrian-only access will be allowed at the end of Barnes Landing Road, Fresh Pond Road and at Abraham’s Landing Road near the Devon Yacht Club.

The piping plover is a tiny, native shorebird both the state and federal governments say could become extinct. Harming or killing piping plovers is subject to federal fines of more than $10,000.

The plan is subject to change based on the migration of the birds. East Hampton Town Natural Resources Department staff will be on site to monitor plover activity, officials said.

Piping plovers, almost driven to extinction decades ago by hunters and hatmakers, are now imperiled by waterfront development, nest-trampling beachgoers and 4x4 drivers, and off-leash dogs and other predators.

The sand-colored birds live on Long Island's North and South shores and have been protected through the federal Endangered Species Act since 1986. Last year, Long Island had 386 pairs of plovers, according to state Department of Conservation data. 

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