Dear Editor: In January, the Department of Environmental Protection regained control of the state-owned North Brigantine Natural Area when a long-term management agreement with the city of Brigantine expired. DEP introduced new permitting guidelines which will greatly reduce human disturbance and increase protections for shore birds. NJ Audubon applauds the DEP for its efforts to better protect shorebirds, including endangered piping plover and red knot.

North Brigantine Natural Area is one of the largest stretches of undeveloped barrier island beach left in New Jersey and has consistently been a nesting site for endangered shorebirds. State data show four pairs of piping plover nested in the natural area in 2017, but in the early 2000s, 17 pairs bred there. These birds lay eggs directly on the sand and while raising their young, they have a lot of natural threats to contend with such as predators, wind, rain and tides.

However, another significant threat, human disturbance, can be controlled. Brigantine oversaw previous management of the natural area but an emphasis was placed on human use, including intensive motorized vehicle operation, to the detriment of the natural area’s wildlife.

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The DEP’s new permitting guidelines will greatly restrict the number of motorized vehicles while increasing the period of time and the area protected for beach nesting birds. Pedestrian access will be open year-round for recreation. DEP will be responsible for enforcing the regulations to protect New Jersey’s valuable ecological resources and wildlife. This is a much needed step in the right direction to protect vulnerable wildlife.

Kelly Mooij is Vice President for Government Relations at New Jersey Audubon.