California’s birds and wildlife suffered a huge setback today. The California Coastal Commission approved the development of a large hotel and condominium complex sited on beach and dune habitat on Monterey Bay in Sand City. The developer calls this 360-unit complex, with parking for almost 1,000 cars, the “Monterey Shores Eco-resort.”
The pacific coast population of Western Snowy Plovers, a federally threatened species, nest and raise their broods here. In fact, yesterday a three egg plover nest (seen in the photo above) was discovered and confirmed by biologists in the footprint of the proposed resort.
“The California Coastal Commission failed the public today,” said Audubon California Coastal Program Director Andrea Jones. “The process of approving this project, which has been going on for 15 years, went against the very intent of the Coastal Act by ruling in favor of the destruction of Snowy Plover and coastal dune habitat.”
Instead of requiring Monterey Shores Eco-resort developer Ed Ghandour to work collaboratively with biologists from USFWS to draft a binding Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and apply for an “Incidental Take Permit,” pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, the Coastal Commission ruled that a revised “Habitat Protection Plan” (HPP) was enough to safeguard three federally listed species located on the property. In addition to the plover, the Smiths Blue Butterfly and several native plant species will be impacted by the project.
“Ghandour’s claim that Snowy Plovers will thrive on the hotel property just doesn’t make biological sense. With only about 28 coastal nesting locations remaining along the Pacific, the population cannot afford another loss,” explained Jones.
Monterey Audubon Society Chapter President, Blake Matheson, said of the decision, “I am stunned. The California Coastal Commission, charged with protecting our coastal environment, has signed off on a project that according to all credible conservation biologists and the USFWS, will unlawfully take endangered species, apparently, with no enforceable conditions attached to protect the birds.”