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Lawsuit aims to protect snowy plovers from off-road vehicles at Oceano Dunes

Posted at 10:45 AM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 00:30:10-04

A lawsuit filed on Thursday by The Center for Biological Diversity sued the California Department of Parks and Recreation for continuing to allow motorized vehicles at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and endangering the protected snowy plover.

The lawsuit filed in federal court, states that the Department's actions violate the Endangered Species Act.

The Oceano Dunes closed to vehicles in late March due to COVID-19 and in July a order by the California Coastal Commission had the park remain closed through September. In early October the Department announced they plan to reopen the beach and dunes to off-road vehicle use on Oct. 30.

"For decades State Parks has let dune buggies and other vehicles harm snowy plovers and their habitat at Oceano Dunes, in violation of the Endangered Species Act," said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. "The agency refuses to implement adequate wildlife-protection measures and is pursuing a management plan for Oceano that would increase off-roading and make conditions worse for native wildlife."

The Oceano Dunes recreation area includes about 1,500 acres of sand dunes and six miles of beachfront. Street-legal vehicles are allowed to drive on the beach in the northern portion, and the southern portion is also open to off-road vehicles and motorized campers.

The Department plans to reopen the Oceano Dunes to motorized vehicles in three phases. In the first phase, up to 1,000 "street-legal" motorized vehicles per day will be allowed to drive on portions of Oceano Dunes and Pismo State Beach, as well as access the dunes riding area, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

According to a press release from The Center for Biological Diversity, more than 4,000 Center supporters sent messages to State Parks this week opposing the reopening of Oceano Dunes to vehicles.

KSBY reached out to the California Department of Parks and Recreation for comment but have yet to hear back.