VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Vandenberg implemented a seasonal, partial closure of Surf, Wall and Minuteman Beach on March 1 and is scheduled to last the duration of the Snowy Plover nesting season, which ends Sept. 30.
The Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Biological Opinion requires, the 30th Space Wing commander to enforce restrictions on all three base beaches annually to protect the threatened Western Snowy Plover and its nesting habitat.
“I consider Vandenberg to be more than an Air Force base, it is also an environmental preserve to many endangered species,” said Col. Michael Hough, 30th Space Wing commander. “It is our job to protect those species such as the Snowy Plover, and that is why we enforce partial closure of beaches during their nesting season. It is also our job, however, to listen to and care for the people, both on base and in the local community, and my hope is that the community abides by the enforcement so the beach can remain open throughout the nesting season.”
Although the people at Vandenberg are important, so is the wildlife. In order to keep the beaches open all summer long, everyone must comply with the rules set to protect the endangered creatures on base.
“It's important that everyone in the area does their part to follow the rules because after a certain number of violations, we have to close the beaches and that effects thousands of people not being able to enjoy the beach during the summer,” said Senior Airman Michael Terrazas, 30th Security Forces conservation patrolman. “My advice to people would be to read the signs that we have at every beach before entering to understand the rules we have.”
Seasonal beach violations are limited to 50 for Surf Beach, 10 for Wall Beach and 10 for Minuteman Beach. Entry into any posted closed area counts as a violation.
“Violations are determined based on individuals found in closed areas or by evidence of intrusion such as footprints in closed areas,” said Samantha Kaisersatt, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron biological scientist, natural resource manager and environmental planner. “The number of violations are tallied and reported to base leadership, base populace and local communities on a weekly basis.”
If the specified violation limit is reached at a particular beach, that entire beach will be closed for the remainder of the nesting season.
“The base populace can help keep the beaches open throughout the nesting season by becoming a volunteer docent to increase public awareness and reduce human intrusion into the closed areas,” Kaisersatt said.
During plover season, the general public can still find beach access available at a portion of Surf Beach, and there is also recreational beach access available on Wall Beach and Minuteman Beach for base populace. To ensure continued access to these beaches, observe and read the posted signage to avoid violations and beach closures.
Just as the public wants the beaches to remain open, so does leadership.
“As stewards of 43 miles of untouched coast line, it is our responsibility to protect the many species that reside on our beaches,” Hough said. “If we all work together and abide by the rules, we can enjoy beach access throughout the nesting season.”