The piping plover is a species of bird that lives along the coastline, chiefly in three regions – along the northeastern Atlantic coast, on the Great Lakes’ coastline, and alongside lakes and wetlands of the Great Plains. While they breed and spend much of the year in these areas, they are migratory birds that travels to the southeastern U.S. coast and the Caribbean for the winter. Piping plovers forage along the beaches in search of worms, insects, crustaceans, and sometimes bivalve mollusks. Even while wandering on the open beach, their gray and white plumage can make them very difficult to spot against the sand. Piping plovers typically build their nests on beaches above the high tide line. The birds build their nests by first digging a depression in the sand, and then lining this shallow pocket with pebbles and pieces of shell. Commercial development, along with humans and vehicles trampling hidden nests on beaches, led to the decrease in the number of piping plovers and the species to be listed as endangered in 1985. Since receiving the endangered designation, the population of piping plovers has been slowly increasing. However, the species remains under threat due to habitat loss and human activity.
The Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) is one organization that protects piping plovers. The HCT is a not-for-profit entity that accumulates land in the Cape Cod area, either as a gift or by purchase, in order to protect wildlife in the region. To date, the HCT has protected over 450 acres of land, much of which was former cranberry bogs. The HCT has a few nesting pairs of piping plovers on its beaches each year. Not only does the HCT protect this land from development, but it also helps the species by forbidding dogs from its beaches during the summer, constructing symbolic fencing around nest areas, and monitoring its nesting piping plovers on a daily basis. Symbolic fencing is simply a roped off area, so it does not act as a complete structural obstacle but it is a clear indicator to visitors of a zone that should not be accessed.
The Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, a five star luxury retreat in Cape Cod, is a strong supporter of the HCT. The resort is currently a sponsor of the HCT and has made various monetary gifts that have helped the HCT purchase land for conservation. Additionally, Wequassett supports conservation by offering its Green Program to guests. The program focuses on recycling, as well as conserving energy and water. Water conservation is vital in the lodging industry because hotels use vast quantities of this resource. Studies have shown that water usage at hotels averages between 100 to 400 gallons per day per room. The EPA estimates that hotel water consumption represents about 15% of the United States’ total water consumption in commercial and institutional facilities. Wequassett’s Green Program allows guests to choose how often they want their linens and towels washed. Monetary savings generated through the program are donated to local environmental not-for-profits.
Wequassett is a true luxury resort and rooms can be priced at more than $500 per night. Forbes Travel Guide cited the resort’s “polished and friendly staff”, cottage style buildings, summer activities (e.g. family barbeques and water sports), among other highlights as reasons for assigning the five star status. The conservation efforts Wequassett has made helps to support the local environment, including the HCT and piping plovers.
Piping Plover Life History – allaboutbirds.org
Piping Plover Critical Habitat – fws.gov
Piping Plover Conservation – harwichconservationtrust.org
Water Savings Analysis for St. Regis Resort – coloradowaterwise.org
Hotel Water Use: Are You Flushing Money Down the Drain? – environmentalleader.com
Wequassett Resort and Golf Club – forbestravelguide.com
New Capewide campaign aims to reduce litter, waste – capecodtimes.com
Photo of piping plover by Byrne Bill, USFWS on Pixnio