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Plover season ends, beaches to reopen

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches as the western snowy plover season comes to a close here Sept. 30. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches as the western snowy plover season comes to a close here Sept. 30. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches as the western snowy plover season comes to a close here Sept. 30. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches as the western snowy plover season comes to a close here Sept. 30. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Restrictions have been lifted on Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches as the Western snowy plover season came to a close here Friday, Sept. 29, 2011. Vandenberg's three local beaches close once a year from March 1 to Sept. 30 for the tiny shorebird listed as threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. (U.S. Air Force photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches as the western snowy plover season comes to a close here Friday, Sept. 30, 2011. Vandenberg's three local beaches close once a year from March 1 to Sept. 30 for the tiny shorebird listed as threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. (U.S. Air Force photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches as the western snowy plover season comes to a close here Sept. 30.

Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches will fully reopen Oct. 1.

Vandenberg's three local beaches close once a year from March 1 to Sept. 30 for the tiny shorebird listed as threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

"The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover was federally listed as threatened in 1993," said Samantha Kaisersatt, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron biological scientist. "The western snowy plover nests from March through September on approximately 12.5 miles of coastal beaches and adjacent sand dunes on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to conserve endangered and threatened species and the ecosystem on which these species depend. To aid the species' recovery, portions of Vandenberg's beaches are closed and access is restricted during the bird's nesting season."

Protective actions taken by both the 30th CES bioenvironmental flight and the 30th Security Forces Squadron have proved over the years to be a positive influence in the continued existence and growth of the western snowy plover species.

"Two hundred forty-six adult snowy plovers were recorded during the base-wide breeding census," said Kaisersatt. "The 2011 breeding census represents a 70 percent increase in population from the 2010 census and 418 snowy plover nests were initiated on Vandenberg this season. Base-wide clutch hatch success during the 2011 breeding season was 33 percent. The primary cause of nest failures was attributed to predation. Thirty-nine percent of banded chicks are currently known to have fledged based on the banded sample size."

Preventing recreational activity on several areas of the beaches, monitored by law enforcement officials, have been a contributing factor in the preservation of the shorebird's breeding habitat. During the western snowy plover season, law enforcement officials serve violations to beachgoers who infringe upon the designated beach rules. Seasonal beach violations are limited to 50 for Surf Beach, 10 for Wall Beach and 10 for Minuteman Beach. If violations exceed a beach's limit, all sections of that beach becomes off-limits to the public during the remaining duration of the season. Violators of beach rules may be fined up to $5,000. Harassment, harm, or destruction of snowy plovers, their nests or chicks may be punished by civil penalties up to $25,000 or criminal penalties up to $50,000 and/or one year in prison.

Violations at the end of the 2011 snowy plover season:

Surf Beach: 32 / Limit 50
Minuteman Beach: 5 / Limit 10
Wall Beach: 7 / Limit 10

"Total beach violations in 2011 increased 61 percent from 2010 despite increased signage," Kaisersatt said. "It is important for everyone to stay out of the closed areas so Vandenberg can keep the beaches open for all to enjoy. In addition, there were reports of dogs on the beaches throughout the breeding season. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches during the breeding season (leashed or unleashed). It is always important to read the signs because there are year-round rules and restrictions."

Although sections of these beaches have been reopened, certain restrictions remain year-round. Beachgoers are reminded to read signs located at the entrances of the beaches. All personnel must adhere to the beach rules regarding recreation.

"The Vandenberg Conservation Officers will continue to enforce off-season rules such as the no fishing restrictions in the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve, checking fire permits and general law and order," said Wayne Moses, the 30th SFS conservation law enforcement chief.

Beach goers should be reminded to follow all posted beach guidelines when enjoying Vandenberg's coast. These include:

-No littering (including fishing bait and fish remains). Please use trash containers located at beach entry points.

-No pets.

-No camping.

-No beach fires.

-No fireworks.

-No kite flying.

-No feeding wildlife.

-No horses or ATV's (except for authorized enforcement personnel).