Friday, April 21, 2006

Pacific Coast plovers still protected

Snowy Plovers living along the Pacific Coast still deserve federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reviewed the status of Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus (the western subspecies) and determined that it "remains at risk from habitat loss, human disturbances and other perils and should retain its status as threatened."

Listed as threatened since 1993, the western population breeds in coastal areas in California, Oregon and Washington. The current population estimate is about 2,300, based on a 2005 survey.

The largest number of breeding birds occurs south of San Francisco Bay to southern Baja. It is classified as a “distinct population segment” under the ESA, separate from populations that nest in inland areas from Nevada and Utah to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Today’s action was triggered by two petitions filed in 2002 and 2003, respectively, by the Surf-Ocean Beach Commission of Lompoc, Calif., and the City of Morro Bay, Calif., seeking to delist the Pacific Coast population of the western Snowy Plover. The petitions contended that the population does not qualify either as a distinct population or as a threatened species.
The service found that the Pacific Coast population differs markedly from other populations of plover in its behavior. With only very isolated exceptions, the Pacific Coast birds breed and stay on the coast their entire lives.

The population's discreteness legally qualify it as a distinct population segment under the ESA. Threats to the species remain essentially the same since 1993, although recovery efforts have proven somewhat successful.

Western Snowy Plover courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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