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Sierra Club, State Parks reach plover settlement 

The Sierra Club and the California Department of Parks and Recreation have settled a lawsuit over the protection of the endangered Western snowy plover at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

The Oceano Dunes Recreation Area is the only California state park where vehicles can be driven on the beach. The finalized settlement will protect another half-mile of nesting area along the beach, mandate reforms for the state park, and initiate plover habitat research.

The compromise came three years after the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club filed the lawsuit. In 2001, the Sierra Club worked with the California Coastal Commission to close a mile and a half of beach to off-road vehicles and campers.

According to the Sierra Club, there are 1,600 breeding pairs of Western snowy plovers on the Pacific coast. Money from the settlement between the Sierra Club and the Oceano Dunes State Park will go to plover research.

The settlement will secure nearly half a million dollars for research, education, public outreach, and volunteer programs. The money will pay for a Western snowy plover recovery manager and to establish a group to monitor funding for plover recovery. The Morro Coast Audubon Society will receive $50,000 a year for five years as well.

“This particular study is going to have an impact on plovers beyond the Central Coast,� said Babak Naficy, the enviornmental lawyer who represented the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We don’t really have a basic understanding of plover nesting requirements.�

Naficy said this settlement will fill a significant void in habitat research.

“Thanks to this agreement, future generations of beachgoers can experience the beauty and wildlife of our ocean dunes,� said Tarren Collins, Santa Lucia Chapter chair.

—J.P.

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