Conserving the Nature of America
Public has more time to review, comment on proposed conservation strategy for western snowy plover
Service reopens comment until August 21

June 21, 2006


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has re-opened the public comment period for 90 days on a proposed new rule that would support and enhance local efforts to conserve the threatened Pacific Coast population of the western snowy plover.

The "special rule" under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act would allow some incidental loss, or "take," of western snowy plovers within counties that have met their Breeding Bird Management Goals as specified in the 2001 Draft Recovery Plan for the species. The public comment period initially was from April 21 until June 20.

Comments, information and suggestions may be sent to the Field Supervisor (Attn: WSP-4d), Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, California, 95521, or by fax at (707) 822-8411. They may also be e-mailed to

The extension was prompted by requests from the public to view records associated with the Services decision in April that petitions to remove the Pacific Coast population of the western snowy from the list of threatened species were not warranted. To ensure that the public has sufficient opportunity to review the requested records, comments on the proposed special rule will be accepted through Monday, August 21, 2006.

The special rule is intended to increase local public support for western snowy plover recovery; provide an incentive to counties to develop management plans to meet recovery goals; and enable the Service to focus limited staff and financial resources in those counties where the recovery need is greatest.

The Service, in reviewing the petitions, found that the Pacific Coast population of the western snowy plover remains at risk from habitat loss, human disturbances and other perils and should retain its status as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also concluded that the Pacific Coast western snowy plover population is markedly separate from other populations and that it meets the requirements for protection as a distinct population segment (DPS) under the ESA.

The western population of the tiny shorebird that breeds in coastal areas in California, Oregon and Washington has been listed as threatened since 1993. The current population estimate for the U.S. portion of the Pacific Coast population is approximately 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.

The western snowy plover is distinguished from other plovers by its small size, pale brown upper parts, dark patches on either side of the upper breast, and dark gray to blackish legs. Snowy plovers weigh between 1.2 and 2 ounces. They are generally 5 to 7 inches long. The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover breeds primarily on coastal beaches from southern Washington to southern Baja California, Mexico. The decline of the species has been attributed to loss of nesting habitat, human disturbance, encroachment of European beach grass on nesting grounds, and predation. The species was listed as threatened in 1993, and the Service designated critical habitat in 2005.

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