Thursday, December 9, 2010

Response: The real plight of the Snowy Plover

In a recent “My Word” piece, Mr. Uri Driscoll expressed a wide range of opinions and observations regarding the current management practices directed at recovering the threatened Snowy Plover. In his essay, he focused especially on dune restoration because he sees it as unnecessarily costly, damaging to wetland habitats, and altering the coastal dunes that protect the county's infrastructure. His rambling essay was filled with phantom opinions attributed to experts, disarticulated bits of information, and poorly explained “facts” derived from a cursory understanding of the ecology of coastal dunes and plovers in particular. We wish to clarify and explain the real situation involving the status of the plover. In doing so, we'll rely on scientific evidence collected and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals rather than presenting anecdotes derived from hearsay.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The dark side of beach grass removal

The European beach grass has been vilified over the last decade or so and serious and expensive efforts have been directed at its eradication. Words like invasive, exotic, non-native and so on have been used to solicit support and donations for its removal.

The fact is that this plant is one of the most popular and effective methods for stopping dune movement and erosion and therefore is used throughout the world. It was planted here as early as the late 1800s so that homes and business, roads and rails as well as the Coast Guard station could be developed and protected from the relentless eastward march of the wind driven coastal dunes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are plover protections protecting plovers?

Are plover protections protecting the plovers? Once you take a look at the data, it becomes obvious that they are not. There are 19 birds left in Humboldt county. The steady decline since intensive monitoring began 10 years ago might have more to do with how we are trying to help them than we may be comfortable in admitting.

Beach grass eradication seems to have no consistent benefit to plover populations, which have been concerns cited by HSU professor Mark Colwell as well as noted in the Fish and Wildlife Service's plover recovery plan. It is hard to say whether benefits to the plover will be a legitimate aspect of restoration grant requests any more. There is already quite a lot of what is considered ideal habitat, yet plovers don't seem to take advantage of it. Initially, the restored areas have too little cover for protection, in my observations, and in ensuing years perhaps too much dense vegetation for nesting. This is also a stated concern in the recovery plan.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Humboldt County Supervisors approve snowy plover fencing, temporary Clam Beach gate closure

link - Donna Tam/The Times-Standard

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved roping off the designated snowy plover breeding areas on Clam Beach, despite arguments from some community members that the fencing isn't necessary and may actually be doing more harm than good.

The supervisors said they can understand the community's concern, but felt it was necessary to allow U.S. Fish and Wildlife to continue with their research.

”I think it's important to look at the big picture,” Chairman Clif Clendenen said.

The county has been roping off designated areas of Clam Beach to protect the western snowy plover since 2004 as part of the Clam and Moonstone Beach County Parks Access Management Master Plan. The snowy plover is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The county's management plan calls for the symbolic fencing to be in place during the plover breeding season, which typically runs between March 1 and Sept. 30, according to a county staff report.

Several residents spoke against the fencing, saying that the data gathered by scientists seems to reflect that the fencing isn't working, and that the fences may actually be a hindrance to the population and the people who use the beach.

Humboldt County Supervisors approve snowy plover fencing, temporary Clam Beach gate closure

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved roping off the designated snowy plover breeding areas on Clam Beach, despite arguments from some community members that the fencing isn't necessary and may actually be doing more harm than good. - Donna Tam/The Times-Standard

Humboldt County Supervisors approve snowy plover fencing, temporary Clam Beach gate closure

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved roping off the designated snowy plover breeding areas on Clam Beach, despite arguments from some community members that the fencing isn't necessary and may actually be doing more harm than good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Irony on the dunes; pretense we can't afford

School children, grant fund sources and the general public are still being told beach grass removal directly benefits the snowy plover. However, according to published reports, plover counts and, most importantly, fledge rates are all down significantly. This has happened since the accelerated beach grass removal and plover monitoring programs began 10 years ago or so.

Little River State Beach had been a reliable place for a few nests and fledged birds in past years. For some reason State Parks decided to spend over a half million dollars to bulldoze it. Ironically, not a chirp from the environmental community.

Now there is almost no protective cover for the plovers or their nests, and it has become a gathering ground for ravens and crows.

A single plover was hatched on Clam Beach this year in an unrestored area way up close to Moonstone Beach. In its first 10 days the little fella and its papa traversed all the way south past the county park and across Strawberry Creek to below Vista Point. A distance of about two miles. Maybe a record. Ironically, previous reports state that chicks have trouble getting out of tire tracks. Unfortunately, it disappeared before fledging.