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Violations temporarily close Minuteman Beach

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Signs on the entrance of Minuteman Beach here indicates the beach’s temporary closure due to recent beach access violations here Tuesday, March 30, 2010. During the Western Snowy Plover nesting season, Minuteman Beach is allowed a maximum of 10 beach access violations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Signs on the entrance of Minuteman Beach here indicates the beach’s temporary closure due to recent beach access violations here Tuesday, March 30, 2010. During the western snowy plover nesting season, Minuteman Beach is allowed a maximum of 10 access violations and has already reached five in March. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Base leadership has temporarily closed Minuteman Beach here due to beach access violations during the western snowy plover nesting season here March 29.

Portions of Vandenberg's beaches, including Wall, Surf and Minuteman, close March 1 through Sept. 30 every year to aid in the recovery of the western snowy plover, a shorebird listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Each beach is allotted a number of access violations," said Edward Panas, a 30th Security Forces Squadron conservation officer. "Minuteman Beach has already reached 50 percent of the maximum number of violations allowed in the first month of the nesting season: five violations out of 10. Because of this fact, the base leadership here has asked us to close the beach until further notice in order to find a solution to prevent further violations on Minuteman Beach."

Just like the current situation at Minuteman Beach, if any of Vandenberg's beaches reaches its limit of violations, all sections of the beach will be off-limits to the public until Sept. 30. The maximum beach access violations are 10 for Minuteman Beach, 10 for Wall Beach and 50 for Surf Beach.

"One of the major problems we've encountered on Minuteman Beach is patrons ignoring the signs," Mr. Panas said. "We have erected detailed signs as well as chains and ropes to help people from entering the restricted areas of the beach. For those people who intend on going to any of Vandenberg's beaches, I cannot stress enough the importance to pay attention to all of the signs."

Failure to comply with restrictions is a violation of federal law and may result in fines and penalties. Fines can reach up to $50,000 and penalties can be as much as more than one year in jail, Mr. Panas said.

For more information about Minuteman Beach's closure or to report violators on any of Vandenberg's beaches, call the conservation office at 606-6804, or the law enforcement desk at 606-3911. For more information about the western snowy plover, call Mr. Darryl York, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron wildlife biologist, at 605-8684.