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UTVGuide.net
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Wednesday, August 01, 2001
Bird´s death in dunes may mean lawsuit

By Jasmine Marshall / Times Staff Writer

OCEANO -- The death of an endangered bird at the Oceano dunes and the failure to disclose it has strained relations between state parks officials and environmentalists and could speed up a possible lawsuit.

A necropsy performed on a California least tern found dead south of Mile Post 7 at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area on May 21 revealed the bird died as a result of "blunt force trauma," according to Andrew Zilke, head ranger.

Although officials do not know exactly what trauma the bird suffered, its injuries are not inconsistent with those caused by motor vehicles, Zilke said.

The park, a popular spot for off-road recreation, has been at the center of a debate over whether vehicles have negative effects on endangered species like the tern and Western snowy plover. In April, the San Luis Obispo office of the Environmental Defenses Center threatened a lawsuit against state parks for failing to uphold the Endangered Species Act.

"This definitely makes a lawsuit more likely," said Babak Naficy, an environmental attorney with the EDC. "It shows whatever mitigation measures they had in place were not sufficient."

Zilke said "protocol was followed" after the tern was discovered dead. Under state law, no terns may be killed or harmed. If they are, state parks must enter into consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game officials.

On Monday, the two agencies met with staff from the Oceano SVRA after the results of the necropsy were in to discuss how to avoid future death or injury to terns.

"We are looking at ways to keep terns from being taken," said Robert Stafford, an associate biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game. "We are meeting with state parks and tern biologists to find ways to minimize impacts to the birds."

Both Stafford and Steve Henry, a senior biologist with the Ventura office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said fines against state parks for the tern´s death are unlikely. Stafford said previous expansion of the park´s enclosure areas to protect birds "seems sufficient."

Henry said there is potential for changes to be recommended in the park´s operations. Although state parks can apply for an "incidental take permit" from U.S. Fish and Wildlife to allow for the accidental killing or injury of protected species such as the tern, it does not currently have one, according to Henry.

While state parks is working to resolve the issue, environmentalists complain that information on the tern´s death was kept from them.

Naficy said the EDC was not informed of the tern´s death until last week, and only received the necropsy report Tuesday.

The EDC has been negotiating with state parks officials in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit.

"We meet with (state parks) in May, in June and July and asked them if there had been any incidents with the (tern and plover) and they said no. This is not private, confidential information. They should have been more forthcoming both to us and the public about this," Naficy said.

The EDC will be consulting with its client, the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club to decide if the death warrants filing of the lawsuit, Naficy said.

*Staff writer Jasmine Marshall can be reached at 739-2219, or by email at [email protected]
 

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Isn't it odd that they found it and how mysteriously the blunt force trauma means that it was hit by a motor vehicle??? <IMG SRC="smilies/rolleyes.gif" border="0"> You don't think they would kill one tern just to get the dunes closed , do you??? Hmmmm.
 

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I would not put it past them to sacrafice one to save all the others.How do they know that a park service rig did not hit it????? <IMG SRC="smilies/eek.gif" border="0">
 

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1962 YellowSubmarine
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<font color="yellow">How do we know it wasn't knocked out of the sky by "blunt force trama" from a plane or hang glider... or was attacked by a hawk and fell to the ground and died of "blunt force trama" on impact??

I see this getting very bad very quick.... if we don't keep on it, once the PS hears lawsuit, they will settle and give the greens our land. Its now more important than ever to get involved! We can't let this one go!</font c>
 

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I've never heard of a bird getting hit by a vehicle going probably less than 20mph, on the highway doing 70 maybe, but not on the beach <IMG SRC="smilies/rolleyes.gif" border="0"> Maybe the bird died of old age and happened to fall on the trail? You don't see many dead birds just lying around, so by picking it up in the first place, they took the food right out of the mouth of a preadator, who will inturn die of starvation. Fawken bleeding heart tree huggers <IMG SRC="smilies/pissed.gif" border="0"> <IMG SRC="smilies/flipoff.gif" border="0">
 

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Gee there is a dead blue jay on my patio that died from blunt force trauma. The dam thing flew in to the sliding glass door, when it was closed.
 
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