WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to more than double the acreage designated as critical habitat for the recovery of the endangered western snowy plover to more than 28,000 acres, up from a 2005 designation of just over 12,000 acres.
Most of that habitat, nearly 17,000 acres, is broken into 51 sites within 50 miles of the Pacific Ocean in California, with smaller allotments in Washington and Oregon.
The agency’s action is part of a settlement agreement reached with the Center for Biological Diversity, which challenged the 2005 designation arguing that it did not provide sufficient habitat for recovery of the species and that it excluded some of the most degraded habitat – which also happened to be some of the most popular beaches, particularly in California.
As a result, nearly 7,000 acres of critical habitat have been created or added to 21 locations in California, including on beaches in Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, Malibu and Big Sur.
The Pacific Ocean population of snowy plovers was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993, and survived a challenge to its status in 2006 led mostly by citizens upset with restrictions imposed by the listing on recreational use of beaches where the plover builds its nests.