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 to protect western snowy plovers.

The order was made during Wednesday’s California Coastal Commission meeting.

Snowy plovers are protected under the Endangered Species Act. They breed between March and September, often returning to the same nesting spots.

In early June, the Center for Biological Diversity reported that California State Parks staff attempted to prevent plovers from nesting in former off-road riding areas. 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 by the COVID-19 crisis.

“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. 

“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.”

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