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Snowy Plover Comments by Oregon Coos County Commissioner John Griffith


The western snowy plover lives from West Coast beaches to the Gulf of Mexico, and south down the Baja coast and mainland Mexico to Mazatlan. An alleged subspecies lives from the Gulf of Mexico to Cuba. The western snowy plover at West Coast beaches is exactly the same species as the North America, Mexico and Gulf birds. There is no arguable fact about that, according to the USFWS. But this abundant bird is listed only when it is on a West Coast beach. In 2006, the USFWS acknowledged that the beach population is not "genetically isolated" from the rest of the western snowy plover species, but is behaviorally distinct. In the Federal Register notice of finding that the beach population warranted threatened species status, USFWS found that it was "genetically isolated" from plovers. Federal Register, March 3, 1993. When trying to maintain that position that USFWS had already vacated in the original rule, by noting beach plovers were at inland breeding sites, and being sued by a California access-rights group and by the City of Morro Bay, Calif., to de-list the beach-only plover rule, the USFWS came up with another excuse: To maintain the beach-only listing, the USFWS simply quit looking for evidence of genetic exchange between beach birds and inland birds. It relied only on its flawed, pre-listing data, did no justification with those old data and new evidence, and left West Coast citizens with an ESA listing the USFWS had insufficient data to enact in the first place.

Curious to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation request to USFWS for an Incidental Take Permit and Habitat Conservation Plan, the Parks Department does not own plover habitat. It has only a recreation easement to Oregon 's ocean beaches. Were this not a fact, the state would not need a 1967 Beach Law granting the public access to private property that comprises ocean beaches. If the state owned the beaches, it could have simply said "Y'all come." Oregon Parks employees have stated, in recorded public meetings, that if Oregon state government does not eliminate public access and use of beaches on behalf of western snowy plover protection and enhancement, the federal government will take over management of Oregon beaches. However, formally three times and several other less formal times, I has asked the Parks Commission to produce even one U.S. law or Code of Federal Regulations citation on which to base that opinion. The Parks Commission denied every one of his requests. Oregon does not need to adopt rules to limit its citizens and visitors inclination to potentially violate the federal Endangered Species Act. Oregon is instead adopting oppressive rules, in a Habitat Conservation Plan, to assume the federal government's sole responsibility to enforce the federal government's own endangered specie law. Since in the 1967 Beach Law, Oregon asserts a right to recreational public access and use to private property, and the state is planning to adopt an HCP that denies public access and use of the same property, Oregon is taking action that threatens Oregonians' presumed right to access and use private property at the beach. An easement, for a road or recreation, does not give the easement holder authority to use the land under the easement for uses not allowed by the easement. In this case involves a questionable "species' " existence, and its "protection" and its "enhancement." This is an important issue to everyone who visits Oregon beaches. Our state government is embarking on a path to eliminate our beach access. Even though the western snowy plover is, at West Coast beaches only, listed in the Endangered Species Act, adopting rules to disincline recreational users from violating a federal laws is outside the lawful concepts of a right of way, which is all the Beach Law tries to establish.

John Griffith, Coos County Commissioner


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