2013-09-06 / Front Page

U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposes fine against town for not protecting piping plover

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a $12,000 fine against the town of Scarborough after determining the town was at fault for not properly protecting the piping plover, a federally threatened shore bird.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said the lack of protection ultimately led to the death of a piping plover chick on Pine Point Beach July 15. A dog, which was off leash, was thought to have killed the bird about 7 a.m. that morning. It was the second piping plover killed on the beach since 2003.

In a notice of violation letter dated Sept. 11, the Fish and Wildlife Service indicates between May 9, 2001 and May 5, 2004, it sent four letters to the town stating its Piping Plover Protection Ordinance was “insufficient” and didn’t “adequately protect plovers from unleashed dogs.”

“In this case, starting in 2001, the (town) was repeatedly notified by the service’s endangered species biologists and other wildlife conservation organizations that dogs should remain leashed on (town) beaches at all times during the piping plover nesting season in order to prevent a (piping plover death) as voice control over dogs is ineffective,” the letter read.

Town Manager Tom Hall said the Town Council would meet with the town attorney in executive session at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18 to discuss options.

There are four options, Hall explained. The town could pay the fine; undertake informal discussions with the Fish and Wildlife Service, which could lead to settlement or mitigation; file a formal petition for relief or take no action and await final assessment from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The town has 45 days to respond to the notice of violation.

“My intention is to, in fact, engage in the informal discussions and hopefully eliminate or severely mitigate the monetary punitive action against us,” Hall told the Leader Thursday, Sept. 12.

Hall said since this was unexpected, there is not line item in the budget that would cover the fine. If it came to it, Hall said, the council could use part of the council’s undesignated fund balance to cover the fine.

Hall said he hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“The council doesn’t have any appetite for paying a fine. Neither do I,” he said. “We will do everything in our power to avoid that.”

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