LOMPOC, Calif. -- The Vandenberg Space Force Base said seasonal restrictions will be in place for nearby beaches starting Tuesday, March 1, to protect the Western Snowy Plover and its nesting habitat.
The seasonal restrictions will be enforced at Surf Beach and Ocean Park from March 1 to Sept. 30, 2022.
Officials said open hours at Surf Beach are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily with beach access through the Surf Beach Station, and Ocean Park is open from dawn to dusk.
Visitors are also welcome to take the trail behind the closed area to access Surf Beach.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Biological Opinion requires restrictions on all Vandenberg beaches annually to protect the federally listed threatened Western Snowy Plover and its nesting habitat, according to the Space Force Base.
"During plover season, the general public can still access much of Surf Beach, but must be careful to avoid the designated restricted areas," said Col. Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander. "Our goal is to maximize beach access for the local community, while still adhering to environmental requirements and safety measures. If everyone does their part, I believe we can protect the snowy plover while we enjoy our beautiful coastline."
According to the Space Force Base, entry into posted restricted beach areas counts as a violation and violators can be fined up to $5,000 in federal court.
In addition, violators of the Endangered Species Act (e.g. crushing eggs or chicks) can face fines up to $50,000 in federal court and imprisonment for up to one year.
Beach rules during the plover nesting season also include the prohibition of dogs, horses and kite flying, according to officials.
"Violations will be counted, however Vandenberg is committed to keeping sections of Surf Beach open to allow the public to enjoy," said Rhys Evans 30th Civil Engineer Squadron biological scientist. "A trail is available for all to enjoy between Surf Beach and Ocean Park behind the restricted nesting area. Leashed dogs can be taken on that trail by entering from Ocean Park; but are not allowed within the open section of Surf Beach during the plover nesting season."