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Contact: John Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
Point Reyes National Seashore has completed planning to continue coastal dune restoration to restore up to 600 acres of native dune habitat, a critical link in the park's efforts to strengthen threatened and endangered populations of coastal plant and bird species. The National Park Service (NPS) has signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) (530 KB PDF) for the Coastal Dune Restoration Environmental Assessment (EA) (13,741 KB PDF) to improve and restore coastal dune habitat of critical ecological importance. The FONSI and associated documents are posted on the Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website (https://parkplanning.nps.gov/pore), as well as the Seashore's website at https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/management/planning_dunerestoration.htm.
The Seashore plans to restore up to 600 acres of coastal dune habitat primarily to benefit species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Habitat restoration will be accomplished by removing highly invasive, non-native European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) and iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis) that have greatly altered sand movement, dune structure, and habitat function for native plants and animals uniquely adapted to this coastal environment. Under the selected alternative, the restoration would involve hand removal and mechanical treatment along with carefully implemented chemical treatment of invasive plants, depending on site and vegetation conditions, the need to maintain buffers for organic pastures, special status species, and wetlands. The restoration work is designed to minimize potential impacts to adjacent ranch operations.
Dune restoration has a demonstrated record of success at Point Reyes. A combination of methods, including manual and mechanical removal and limited chemical treatment has been used successfully at Abbotts Lagoon area to restore native coastal dune habitat. Thousands of federally endangered Tidestrom's lupine (Lupinus tidestromii) have reestablished in newly restored areas, along with other rare plants such as the federally endangered beach layia (Layia carnosa) and curlyleaf monardella (Monardella sinuata spp. nigrescens). In addition, the federally threatened western snowy plover (Charadrinus alexandrinus nivosus) has been quick to take advantage of the newly restored dunes, with 20 of the 45 nest attempts in the Seashore during 2014 occurring in restored dune habitat.
The park has used both manual and mechanical removal methods since 2000. The biology of European beachgrass makes it a very difficult species to remove by hand, because it roots anywhere from 3- to more than 12-feet deep and easily resprouts from the smallest of rhizome fragments. Mechanical removal is effective, but extremely costly, reducing the acreage that can be restored and directly affecting federally listed species. In addition, mechanical removal can have repercussions on adjacent habitats and land uses. The objective is to restore dunes to benefit plant and animal communities without incurring impacts to other habitats and adjacent ranching operations.
"The plovers' use of the already restored dune areas is extremely encouraging and bodes well for the species ability to withstand habitat loss at Point Reyes resulting from climate change." said Park Superintendent Cicely Muldoon. "Continuing dune restoration helps to ensure that this unique shorebird has a fighting chance for survival at Point Reyes."
The EA was released to the public for review on January 9, 2015. Approximately 118 comments were received during the comment period. Most of the substantive comments received concerned the range of reasonable alternatives or alternative components, the adequacy of information presented on specific aspects of these alternatives (e.g., monitoring, buffers, wetland mitigation plans), and the accuracy and adequacy of information pertaining to impacts on plants, wildlife, and human health from use of herbicides, primarily glyphosate. None of the public comment letters required any modification to the alternatives or substantive changes to the impact analyses in the Environmental Consequences section. A summary of comments received and the NPS's response to comments (2,861 KB PDF) may be found on the websites referenced above.