Beachgoers are urged to help recovery efforts of the threatened western snowy plover by staying on the wet sand at snowy plover beaches during nesting season, March 15 – Sept. 15.
Beachgoers will see signs and ropes that identify sensitive plover nesting areas and list restrictions to protect the small shorebirds during this period.
Plover beaches remain open to foot and equestrian traffic on wet, packed sand throughout nesting season. All other recreation on plover beaches is off limits on both wet and dry sand, include walking your dog (even on a leash), driving a vehicle, riding a bicycle, camping, fires, and flying kites or drones.
“We’re making great strides in reversing the downward slide of this species,” said Cindy Burns, Siuslaw National Forest wildlife biologist. “But it takes all of us, so we urge people to do their part to understand nesting season rules and to share the beach this spring and summer.”
These small birds nest on open sand along Oregon’s beaches. Nests, and especially chicks, are well-camouflaged. During nesting season, human disturbances can flush adult plovers away from their nests as they attempt to defend their young from the perceived predator. Left alone too long, or too often, eggs or chicks can die from exposure, predators or people.
Recreation restrictions occur in designated plover management areas: small stretches of beach along the entire coastline where plovers are nesting or could potentially nest. These areas collectively comprise about 45 miles of Oregon's 362 miles of shoreline.
“Visitors will have access to hundreds of miles of beaches that have no seasonal restrictions,” said Laurel Hillmann, Ocean Shores Specialist for Oregon State Parks. “By planning your trip, you can enjoy the coast and help keep these special birds safe.”
Detailed maps can be found on the Oregon State Parks website at oregon.gov/plovers and on the Siuslaw National Forest website at go.usa.gov/xEh2h. Visitors to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (ODNRA) can review go.usa.gov/xdwYQ to identify unrestricted recreation areas and information on riding motor vehicles on the sand.
New restrictions on North Umpqua Spit
Later this year, visitors to a 2.6-mile stretch of the North Umpqua Spit within the ODNRA will see new restrictions, as plovers have returned to the area to nest after a long absence. Restrictions will be in place on the portion of beach south of Sparrow Park Road to the jetty, which is managed by the Siuslaw National Forest and has long been designated as critical plover habitat. The birds’ return prompts the same restrictions that apply at other plover beaches: the beach will remain open to travel by foot or horse on the wet, hard-packed sand only, with dry sand areas off-limits.
“Visitors to the North Umpqua Spit will still have full access to more than three miles of beach north of the plover area,” Burns said.
The date for when restrictions go into effect at North Umpqua spit has not been set. Visitors should look for signs and check the Siuslaw National Forest website at go.usa.gov/xEh2h for updates.
Background on plover protections
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed western snowy plovers as a threatened species in 1993, when officials counted only 55 breeding adults. Since, the numbers of breeding adults have steadily increased, from 149 in 2009 to 423 in 2019.
Several land managers oversee beach activity for plover protection, primarily the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).
Habitat loss from invasive plants — as well as human disturbances, including litter and discarded food scraps that attract predators — had contributed to the birds’ decline. The saveoregondunes.org is working with land managers to develop and implement a restoration strategy as well as raise public awareness about the need to restore the dunes ecosystem for snowy plover, rare plants and animals, and the unique recreation opportunities offered here.