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Western snowy plover season ends

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 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 have been lifted on Minuteman, Surf and Wall beaches as the Western snowy plover season came to a close here Sept. 17.

Vandenberg's three local beaches close once a year from March 1 to Sept. 30 (beaches reopened two weeks earlier this season) for the tiny shorebird listed as threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

"In the 2010 season, we recorded 255 nests and 409 chicks hatched on Vandenberg," said Rhys Evans, from the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resources flight. "The number of breeding adults increased from previous years. Close cooperation with our partners at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service allows Vandenberg to open beaches early if we demonstrate that all chicks have left the nest."

During the Western snowy plover season, the Vandenberg beaches are monitored in order to protect the breeding of the threatened shorebird and their nesting habitat. 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.

Beach violations at season's end:

Surf Beach: 19
Minuteman Beach: 5
Wall Beach: 3

"We had low numbers of beach violations this year, but still had problems with people not reading beach signs at entrances and wandering into the closed areas along the waterline," said Darryl York, a 30th CES environmental flight wildlife biologist.

Although sections of these beaches have been reopened, certain restrictions remain year-round.

"Be aware that there are still beach rules in the winter: dogs are allowed, but must be on leashes; and no fires, kites or remote controlled aircraft are allowed," Mr. Evans said.

Additionally, overnight camping is prohibited as well as recreational off-road vehicles, littering and fireworks.

Beachgoers are reminded to read signs located at the entrances of these beaches. All personnel must adhere to the beach rules regarding recreation.

"Annual monitoring of snowy plover breeding began at Vandenberg in June 1993," Mr. York said. "The objective of monitoring is to estimate the annual breeding population size, document reproductive success and identify factors affecting reproductively. Data collected is used to evaluate the status of breeding snowy plovers on Vandenberg, determine the effectiveness of management policies implemented and provide guidance for future management decisions."