Coastal Dune Habitat Restoration Projects
Dune Restoration Efforts to Expand in the Park
Park Launches Planning Effort to Restore Critically Important Habitat Areas
The public review period for the Coastal Dune Restoration Environmental Assessment (EA) concluded on February 9, 2015. The NPS is currently analyzing the comments to determine if changes are needed to the environmental document based on issues raised. The next step would be the preparation of a decision document.
Since 2001, the Seashore has been working on a series of coastal dune restoration projects near Abbott's Lagoon to remove non-native, invasive plant species such as European beachgrass and iceplant. Native dune habitat in the Seashore provides critical habitat for four federally listed, and several additional rare and unique, species of plants and animals, as well as some of the largest expanses of two rare native dune plant communities remaining in California.
However, more than 60% of the park's 2,200 acres of coastal dunes, bluff, and scrub are invaded by European beachgrass and iceplant (NPS 2009), which establish vast monocultures that crowd out native plant species. As a result of this habitat conversion, reproductive success of both the federally endangered Tidestrom's lupine and the federally threatened western snowy plover has plummeted. Some of these impacts can be reduced through restoration: in 2012, more than 15,000 federally endangered Tidestrom's lupine plants germinated across approximately 16 acres of the Abbott's Lagoon project area, and plovers moved into the restoration area to nest. Based on the demonstrable success of these initial efforts in increasing rare plant and western snowy plover nesting habitat, the Seashore initiated a planning process to expand its restoration efforts to other park dune systems in future years.
A scoping letter (26 KB PDF) was sent to the public on December 6, 2012, to solicit comments on dune restoration within the Seashore, the proposed compliance route, range of alternatives, and topics to be analyzed as part of the EA. At the time of that letter, the proposed compliance route was preparation of a programmatic compliance document that would have covered dune restoration throughout the Seashore, but the broader scope of this type of document was judged to be better handled by future compliance efforts.
During that scoping period, several high priority dune restoration areas were called out specifically for evaluation in greater detail: these included AT&T and B Ranch. These projects, along with North Beach, A Ranch, Davis Property, and Limantour, are now the focus of this EA. The EA complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and assesses impacts of alternative means or methods of removing these invasive plant species.
This EA includes three action alternatives that focus on different primary means or methods for invasive plant removal within the project areas (Alternatives B–D), as well as a No Action Alternative (Alternative A), which would involve no near-term restoration efforts within these dune systems except for previously permitted projects. The three action alternatives differ in terms of which methods would be used primarily for initial treatment: Alternative B (Manual Removal), Alternative C (Chemical Control), and Alternative D (Mechanical Removal). Alternative C is the preferred alternative. (Alternatives are discussed in Chapter 2, with the preferred alternative starting on page 48 [which is the 88th page of the PDF document].)
Coastal dune restoration typically takes place in areas of high ecological and other resource importance. The EA identifies a wide variety of measures to avoid or minimize impacts, including minimizing implementation during the breeding season for various threatened and endangered species and establishing buffers between work areas and documented nests and breeding habitat, wetlands, and organic pastures. Restoration efforts are being coordinated closely with adjacent ranchers to ensure that dune restoration efforts have no or minimal impacts on ranch operations. When adjacent ranchlands border proposed dune restoration areas, restoration plans would emphasize minimizing movement of sands following restoration into adjacent pastures.
For more information on the process, please contact John Dell'Osso, Public Information Officer, by email.