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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 9th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 5 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 5

Plover violations are up with the Surf Beach docent program


Since the start of western snowy plover nesting season on March 1, Surf Beach has recorded 30 violations for people found venturing into the closed-off areas of the beach.

At just a month into nesting season, snowy plovers are already close to getting Surf Beach all to themselves.

When that number hits 50, Vandenberg Air Force Base will be forced to close the beach to public access.

“We’ve seen increasing violations over the last few years,” said Vandenberg biological scientist Samantha Kaisersatt.

Part of the reason for the increasing violations, Kaisersatt said, is the advent of a docent program, where volunteers patrol the beach enforcing the no-trespassing rule and educating the public by handing out brochures.

Half a mile of Surf Beach is open to the public during the plover nesting season from March 1 to Sept. 30. The beach sits a few miles west of Lompoc. Kaisersatt said boundaries at the north and south ends of the beach are obviously closed off as protected habitat with barriers, signs, and maps.

Vandenberg has also been forced to close off Minuteman Beach and Wall Beach in the past. Although those two beaches are open to base personnel only, the beaches are allowed only 10 violations each before they have to be closed.

The base began managing for plovers in 1993, and violation limits were imposed in 2001 as a response to people entering closed areas during nesting season. The lowest number of breeding adult snowy plovers on the base was 78 in 1999. In 2012, that number hit 252.

Kaisersatt said although that’s a big increase in the number of mating pairs, it’s nowhere near the goal set for the base by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: 400 nesting pairs for two years in a row.

Jeff Phillips of the Fish and Wildlife Service said the goal and violation limits were set as part of a beach management plan with the base. He said when the base wanted to allow access to its beaches, it needed to figure out how it was going to allow public access and protect the endangered snowy plover at the same time.

Vandenberg’s beaches are the only ones on the Central Coast that monitor their violations so closely.

Although other beaches may not close or count violations, the agencies managing beaches with snowy plover enclosures have their own ways of educating the public and monitoring trespassing. Phillips said the University of California Santa Barbara Coal Oil Point Reserve is the “gold standard” for monitoring efforts outside the base.

It’s estimated that the reserve only held two to four nesting pairs a year between 1970 and 2000. UCSB started a monitoring and management program in 2001, and as of 2008, there were 57 pairs counted.

“When they started there was little-to-no snowy plovers,” Phillips said. “They’ve done quite well there.”

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