Habitat set aside for western snowy plover doubles
By Peter Fimrite
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday designated 38 square miles along the West Coast as critical habitat for a federally listed beach- and mud-loving bird called the Pacific Coast western snowy plover.
The designation more than doubles the amount of habitat set aside for the threatened pocket-size birds in California, Oregon and Washington.
It means proposed developments on federal land could come under more scrutiny. It is not clear how the designation would affect the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which did not add new critical habitat, but federal land managers in general would have to consult with the fish and wildlife service before anything could be done that might impact plover habitat.
"Protecting critical habitat will help this lovely shorebird continue on the path to recovery," said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Species with federally protected habitat are more than twice as likely to be moving toward recovery than species without it, so this puts a big safety net between plovers and extinction."
The decision settles a lawsuit filed in 2008 by the Center for Biological Diversity. The lawsuit accused the Bush administration in 2005 of illegally cutting out more than 7,000 acres of critical habitat established by government scientists in 1999, leaving 12,145 acres for plovers in the three states.
The new rule restores those habitat areas and adds several other areas, including dune systems, former salt ponds and inland areas that could become shoreline in the future as a result of sea-level rise caused by climate change.
Plovers in the Golden State claimed the bulk of the real estate - 16,337 acres of the total 24,527 acres that were designated critical habitat.
The new designations affect several locations in the Bay Area and leave others alone or, in some cases, slightly reduce the amount of protected acreage. Among the areas getting the most protection is the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, where 618 acres of saltwater ponds, tidal marshes and wetlands were designated plover habitat.
The rule adds 168 acres of salt evaporation ponds in the Warm Springs area of South San Francisco, 89 acres at Ravenswood salt ponds east of Palo Alto, 39 acres of critical habitat at Dillon Beach and 32 acres at Limantour Beach, on the north end of Drakes Bay.
Half Moon Bay, on the other hand, lost an acre of protected land while the Point Reyes shoreline, west of Inverness, lost two acres and is now down to 460 acres of critical plover habitat.
In all, 47 areas were designated critical habitat in California, nine in Oregon and four in Washington.
Snowy plovers were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993.
Copyright © 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.
This article originally appeared here.
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