For Immediate Release, April 21, 2009
Contact: John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 533-4416
Center for Biological Diversity Takes First Step in Lawsuit to Stop
Beach Driving From Killing Snowy Plovers
OCEANO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue against the California Department of Parks and Recreation over its ongoing authorization of motorized vehicle use at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, which is known to result in mortality of wintering snowy plovers—a threatened species.
“The Endangered Species Act prohibits anyone, including state agencies, from killing, harming, or harassing listed species like the snowy plover,” said John Buse, a Center for Biological Diversity senior staff attorney. “Despite observations of snowy plovers crushed and terrorized by vehicles, the Department of Parks and Recreation has done nothing to stop further harm to wintering plovers.”
The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, in southern San Luis Obispo County, includes about 1,500 acres of sand dunes and 5.5 miles of beach areas open for use by motorized vehicles. The Area is operated and managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. Street-legal vehicles can be operated on the beach in the northern portion of the Recreation Area, while the southern portion is open to off-road vehicles and motorized campers.
But the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is also home to hundreds of western snowy plovers, a small shorebird that is protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Snowy plovers nest and breed in the Recreation Area between March and September, with most individual birds returning year after year to the exact same nesting spots, generally in flat open areas such as beaches and sandspits. Many snowy plovers also remain in the Recreation Area after the end of breeding season and throughout the winter, where they are vulnerable to disturbance and to being struck by vehicles.
In addition to managing the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, the Department of Parks and Recreation permits special off-road vehicle events and races. As a result of a previous Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, during one such event in October 2008, the Department deployed biological monitors to determine whether snowy plovers were harmed. Monitors reported that one plover was found dead in tire tracks and appeared to have been crushed. In addition, monitors observed dozens of snowy plovers “being terrorized” by vehicles on the beach.
The notice provided to the Department of Parks and Recreation announced the Center’s intent to sue if the Department fails to take action to prevent future injury to snowy plovers. “For a species as imperiled as the snowy plover, any harm or harassment matters,” said Buse.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 220,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.