I can hardly open a local newspaper lately without reading about some local endangered species of plant or animal. Santa Barbara County seems to have more than its share of protected plants and animals. It's making a difference in what we can do on our beaches and rivers and fields. Ocean Beach near Lompoc is now closed to protect nesting snowy plovers. Why is California, and the Santa Barbara region in particular, so rich in threatened and endangered species? What local plants and animals are protected, and where do they live? I guess the real question is: should we care?
Unfriendly signs at Ocean Park (aka Surf Beach) at the mouth of the Santa Ynez River west of Lompoc, California. We spoke with an Air Force security officer who was patrolling the beach beyond the sign. She explained that entry is an $80 dollar fine, with no warnings given. I pointed out that the sign is only in English, though many Latinos and Vietnamese used to regularly fish here. There is a small section of beach nearby that is still open. This situation is not popular with local residents.
This remote windblown beach and estuary are surrounded by Vandenberg Air Force Base. This is an amazing natural area, rich with endemic plants, especially on Burton Mesa in the distance. Endangered Western Snowy Plovers are nesting along the beach and Southern Steelhead Trout are hopefully running up the river to spawn. This area is relatively well protected, though large areas of the coastal strand are overrun with introduced ice plant and beach grass. The bright yellow flowers are Giant Coreopsis, coreopsis gigantea, uncommon this far north, but doing ok here.
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