Surf Beach at Vandenberg Air Force Base, which experiences an annual 7-month-long closure for conservation of Snowy Plovers, is opening 10 days earlier than usual.
Surf, Wall, and Minuteman beaches will open Friday to beach goers without Western Snowy Plover restrictions, according to a press release from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Endangered Species Act stipulates the closures of the three beaches from March 1 through Sept. 30 to protect the threatened bird.
But a report from conservation officials indicates all Snowy Plover chicks have fledged, which led to the 30th Space Wing Commander directing all beaches to be re-opened and all boundary fences and signs to be removed.
"Vandenberg remains steadfast in our commitment to protecting the beach habitat," Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander, said. "This year, I challenged our conservation team to both protect the natural environment
and keep the beaches open for our local communities to enjoy. Their efforts, along with our partnership with Mayor Osborne and the citizens of Lompoc, have paid huge dividends. For the first time in three years, we were able to preserve public access to our area's most cherished oceanfront throughout the entire summer. I'm so proud of all who worked so hard to make this happen."
The annual closure of the beaches has sparked controversy among many locals, who say the beaches belong to residents.
Lompoc City Councilman Jim Mosby filed a petition earlier this year calling for removal of the annual beach closure period.
“It’s important for this beach to be open for the people,” Mosby said at the time he submitted the petition. “We believe snowy plovers and people can get along together.”
Lompoc City Manager Jim Throop agreed with Mosby and urged the Coastal Commission to end the closures.
Conservationists say the closures are important to give Snowy Plovers a chance to nest and repopulate.