SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - Oceano Dunes will remain closed to vehicles in order to protect western snowy plovers’ nesting activities.
The California Coastal Commission has ordered State Parks officials to keep portions of Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area closed to vehicles and camping through the end of September.
The announcement was made at Wednesday morning's California Coastal Commission Meeting.
Snowy plovers are protected under the Endangered Species Act. They prefer flat, open areas, like beaches, and breed between March and September, often returning to the same nesting spots.
In early June, the Center for Biological Diversity reported that State Parks staff attempting to prevent plovers from nesting in former off-road riding areas. It said staffers were scuffing out nesting “scrapes” made by plovers and installing mylar flagging to deter expanded nesting.
Plovers have been expanding their nesting and foraging areas since the beach was closed to vehicles in late March due to COVID-19.
“Kudos to the Coastal Commission for stepping in to protect snowy plovers at Oceano Dunes and keep critical beach nesting areas closed to vehicles,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “These imperiled little birds deserve the chance to finish this nesting season without being run over by dune buggies.”
Oceano Dunes is managed by State Parks’ Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. The park includes about 1,500 acres of sand dunes where off-road vehicles are driven, and six miles of beachfront where driving vehicles on the beach is allowed and thousands of people camp.
State Parks released a statement on the closure:
"California State Parks and the Coastal Commission are actively working to ensure the safety of visitors and to adopt protective measures for the threatened western snowy plover. To achieve these goals, State Parks will continue to restrict OHV access through October 1, 2020 to Oceano Dunes. In the long-term, the state continues to work with local, state and federal agencies to address long-standing concerns about air quality, conservation and public access to Oceano Dunes."
Western snowy plovers are one of the most threatened shorebirds in North America. The overall plover population on the Central Coast is declining, threatened by the loss of nesting habitat, predation and habitat degradation from development, recreation and sea-level rise.