Monday, July 7, 2008

No Fireworks on the Beach

I have heard that environmentalists are the ones that have pushed for fireworks free beaches locally. Rumors are that they upset the Snowy Plover or something. Does anybody know if this is true? I know they close Clam Beach to vehicles every time they think there will be a big draw of people to that beach. Even on 4-20 last year Clam Beach was closed due to anticipated traffic on the beach. It seems absurd to allow fireworks in Westhaven and Cutten and other places full of trees and duff, and ban them on a strip of sand adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. Could there be a safer place to light fireworks than on the beach? Does anybody know of a beach in Humboldt County where fireworks are still legal? Were beaches closed due to an endangered bird or due to the mess of fireworks?
If it's the mess and not the bird, there could be a beach clean up day just after the 4th. I would give such an event a free plug on KGOE and I'm sure other media would help get the word out. This would be a lot easier to clean up than the aftermath of another forest fire.
I have always considered my self an environmentalist and wish no harm to nesting birds but are we being sold a bag of crap with these beach closures?


Lethe said...

Hi, I can't tell you where to do your fireworks at the beach, which is lots of fun, but I can answer some of your questions about plover conservation.

The Western Snowy Plover (along with other birds) is threatened and has had huge population loss since the early 1900s when hundreds+ were observed on each west coast beach. Recent (legally mandated) efforts to intensively protect their nesting areas has helped, but they are far from out of the woods, they need only one bad year to undo the progress of many good years. (I was employed to build a database of snowy plover population surveys and mortality causes, by nesting site, and sometimes it is heartbreaking. In my region (way south of you), nests are monitored one to several times a week and each plover family is checked and counted with each visit ... their numbers are small enough that this is feasible, which says something about how few there are.)

For nesting, the W. Snowy Plover lays eggs in slight hollows directly on bare sand, at specific types of beaches. Their known nesting areas are actively monitored. I am not familiar with your region but I can only guess that Clam Beach is one of their nesting areas. They nest in the summer months and are so well camouflaged that even the best intentioned can inadvertently step on them or their nests. Also disturbances can cause the parents to get separated from the chicks and then the chicks die of starvation. I imagine that fireworks could fall into this category.

In some regions there are volunteer groups set up to help with monitoring these birds and other endangered species. It is a wonderful way to visit the beach ... check with your local birding groups. I remember hearing that there is some interesting plover work going on in Arcata, but I don't remember the details.

Hope this answers some questions (I didn't know a thing about these little birds until I got hired to do the database).

Tom Sebourn said...

Lethe, it sounds like fireworks come at a bad time of year for the Snowy Plover. I did find out that there is a local beach where fireworks were being used. Mad River Beach. I'm not sure if it's legal to use them there but word has it that there were many.
Clam Beach, north of Arcata Ca. is a nesting site. Must be why they cracked down on the fireworks there. Sometimes they put up the orange Caltrans style plastic fences around the nests so people know to stay away from them.
Doesn't explain why they closed it on 4-20 though.