OCEANO, Calif. - The Center for Biological Diversity announced they plan on filing a lawsuit against the California State Parks and Recreation Department to protect the Western Snowy Plover.
The Snowy Plover and other birds share the Oceano Dunes with off-road vehicles every day, and environmentalists say not enough is being done to protect the endangered bird. They claim the birds are being trampled by vehicles, even after restrictions were tightened at the park following similar legal action in 2009.
The birds are known for nesting directly on the sand.
“Letting dune buggies crush imperiled snowy plovers is indefensible and illegal. The sandy beaches and fragile dunes where these tiny birds feed and breed have to be protected,” said Ileene Anderson, a Center scientist. “Despite decades of data showing that plovers have been terrorized and killed by vehicles, Parks and Recreation has failed to protect them. These officials must be held accountable.”
In 2016, U.S. Fish & Wildlife reported finding six birds killed, all in tire tracks on the beach.
The Oceano Dunes are the only California State Park where vehicles are allowed to be driven on the beach. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people take advantage, but the area is also home to several endangered or threatened animals. This includes the Western Snowy Plover.
At the Morro Coast Audubon Society, longtime birder Karen Perry says the birds need undisturbed coastline to breed.
"They can't just go all of a sudden and just decide to put their nest in a tree," says Perry. "They are bound to breed on the shores and bound to breed on the sands."
The Center is encouraging the Parks Department to reduce speed limits on the beach and expand roped off breeding grounds, particularly March through September, peak breeding times.
Not everyone believes agrees more regulation will fix the problem, but Perry believes it is a start.
"Everybody wants to take their vacations at the ocean and pretend it belongs to them, but it really doesn't belong to them."