Clipped From The Californian
Plover protection under review rft Art,.- ' L 'M- I .?- "My SALINAS CALIFORNIAN FILE PHOTO A western snowy plover nests on a beach in Sand City in 2003. Fish and Wildlife Services may change habitat restrictions. Federal officials plan to modify 'critical habitat' areas set in 1999 By HUGH POWELL The Salinas Californian Federal officials are seeking public comment on their proposal for protecting the western snowy plover, a threatened shorebird that lives year-round on Monterey County beaches and elsewhere along the Pacific Coast The tiny, sandy-brown plovers lay eggs in footprint-sized hollows on dry dunes. Sharp-eyed beachgoers may spot them as the birds scurry along the high-tide line, snapping up insects on stranded kelp. Of the 2,600 plovers living on the Pacific Coast, nearly 450 nested in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties last year, said Gary Page, a biologist at Point Reyes Bird Observatory, in Stinson Beach who has stud-' ied plovers in these two counties since 1976. The plan, created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would modify areas the agency designated as "critical habitat" in 1999. The designation does not automatically place restrictions on public access to beaches, said Al Dormer of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Sacramento office. That decision is up to State Parks and Recreation, which considers federal rulings when managing beach access. In 2002, the state agency decided to ban dogs on Zmu-dowski, Moss Landing, Salinas River and Marina state beaches to protect snowy plovers, while allowing dogs on Asilo- TO GET INVOLVED The Fish and Wildlife Service will accept public comment on its proposal to protect the western snowy plover by mail, fax or e-mail until Feb. 15, and will decide on the new plan by Sept. 20.' Details on how to comment are online at http:sacramento. htm. mar, Garrapata and parts of Monterey state beaches, said David Schaechtele of the agency's Monterey District The proposed changes in Monterey County are small enough that dog regulations probably won't change, Schaechtele said. He added that any changes would be made after the Fish and Wildlife Service's final ruling in September. The federal proposal would remove 276 acres from the critical habitat defined for Monterey Bay beaches, Dormer said. The cut would bring the total , area of critical habitat along the bay to 1,416 acres. About half of the removed area would remain protected because it is part of the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge The other half was trimmed off beaches from Monterey to Moss Landing and at Point Sur, after more precise mapping of plover habitat, Dormer said. The changes come after a review of critical habitat prompted by a lawsuit that county commissioners in Coos County, Ore., filed. The county officials objected to the original ruling on the grounds that the federal agency had not completed a proper economic impact statement Contact Hugh Powell at hugh.powellsalinas.gannett.com.