Whole Life Magazine

June / July 2017

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city of angels A recent trip up the coast of California brought me to the town of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County. This was to be my introduction to two endangered species of birds: western snowy plovers and least terns. I learned that Pismo Beach is the largest protected habitat for these birds on the California coast. Here the birds are able to take refuge and lay eggs in the sand during their nesting season from March until September. Boardwalks were constructed over the vast ex- panse of undulating sand dunes so that visitors could take long walks with their dogs and not disturb the native vegetation or the birds that live there. With the help of The Bay Foundation, the City of Santa Monica has decided to get on board with a similar program by creating a protected habitat for the endangered western snowy plover birds, (Charadrius nivosus nivosus). According to the U.S. Dept. of Fish and Game, the Pacifi c Coast popu- lation of the western snowy plover is federally listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as threatened. In California, the western snowy plover is classifi ed as a "Bird Species of Special Concern." At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 9 at Annenberg Beach House, Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer was on hand, along with The Bay Foundation's Executive Director Tom Ford, Wa- tershed Programs Manager Melodie Grubbs, and City of Santa Monica Chief Sustainability Offi cer and Assistant Public Works Director Dean Kubani, to introduce the public to the Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project. The project covers a three-acre area located just north of the Santa Monica Pier. Western snowy plovers will now be able to nest on the Santa Monica Beach. By fencing off an area for the endangered birds, city offi cials hope to keep beachgoers away from the nests, asking visitors to walk around the protected area but not through it, thus keeping the beach accessible to humans and safe for the plovers at the same time. "We're seeking a balance between beach recreation and habitat restoration," said Chris Dellith, senior wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura. "The goal is to allow humans and shorebirds like the western snowy plover to peacefully coexist along our coastline." The protected habitat will include native coastal plants, such as sand verbena (Abronia maritima) and beach evening prim- rose (oenothera-cheiranthifolia-suffruticosa, aka Camissoniopis cheiranthifolia.) Last winter's rains encouraged thousands of seedlings to sprout and small sand dunes to form. Besides creating a protected habitat for birds, the Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project will offer visitors to Santa Monica Beach a glimpse of native coastal vegetation, transforming three acres of sandy beach to a healthy ecosys- tem, and restoring it to its original natural look. Nature's sand dunes, created by rains and left alone without raking as part of the restoration project, will also help create barriers to sea rise for local homeowners. If San Luis Obispo County can successfully manage the balance between recreation and wildlife, why not Los Ange- les County? The difference might be the 72 million visitors to Los Angeles County beaches each year, with 17 million visi- tors to Santa Monica Beach alone. Despite the daunting task at hand, project coordinators were excited by the discovery of two snowy plover birds, who made a nest in April. This marks a hopeful move forward—the birds have not nested on Los An- geles County beaches since 1949. For more info, visit http://www.santamonicabay.org By Kathy Vilim Can They Really Co-Exist? WHERE CORN DOGS MEET SNOWY PLOVER BIRDS Photo Left: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Kerry Ross, Photo Right: The Bay Foundation June/July 2017 7

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