Great Lakes Plover Protectors Meet With DC Lawmakers

Kennedy Sullivan watched Piping Plovers return to Lake Ontario - and was inspired to tell their success story to lawmakers.

This spring, through our Audubon in the Parks partnership and as NY co-lead for the Healing Our Waters coalition, Audubon hosted three young conservationists from the Great Lakes basin to attend "Great Lakes Day 2024" in Washington D.C., where they were invited to share their stories and passion for the health of the Great Lakes with legislators.

Huge thanks to participants Nandika, Perle, and Kennedy for joining us! Kennedy shares her experience below.

I have been with the New York Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Program since 2021, first as a technician and then as a project coordinator. I was lucky to be a part of the program when we had a record-breaking two nests at Sandy Island Beach State Park in Pulaski, NY.

The next season, we jumped to three as a result of increased stewardship and habitat restoration. I’ve been dedicated to trying to protect shorebirds like our Piping Plover since I started this job.

Our program, compared to others, is small scale. So, being asked to speak to our state congressmen over two days about it was daunting.

I care about how much the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) has supported the Piping Plover, so I wanted to make a lasting impact on our lawmakers.

Piping Plover. Photo: Lorraine Minns/Audubon Photography Awards

It was amazing to see how supportive our New York State Congressmen and Congresswomen were to the GLRI. While we were meeting with staff in Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s office, I felt how far I’ve come to get to this point as a young wildlife conservationist.

Meeting with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik's staff.

I am excited to begin our upcoming season, as I always am, but I feel even better knowing our lawmakers and their staff were influenced by our stories and will continue to support Lake Ontario’s ecosystem and the people that rely on it. A huge thank you to them and everyone who has helped the program get to this point.

The most impactful meeting occurred at Congressman Nick Langworthy’s office. The Congressman’s Legislative Director was immediately interested in our story when we showed him a picture of a Piping Plover. He was shocked how our program’s efforts helped this state-endangered species return when they were once extirpated. I’ll never forget his face when he saw our plover, how vulnerable it is, and the kind email he sent to us the next day.

As long as they remember what a Piping Plover is, it’s going to support not just my program but others across the Great Lakes. It takes an entire community to protect this bird and I wanted to represent that community.

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