Check our Nature Notes for the latest western snowy plover updates!
NOTE: Beach restrictions at Nehalem Bay have been lifted for the remainder of the year.
OPRD and the Western Snowy Plover
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is legally responsible for recreation on the Ocean Shore. Our mission balances the public's right to enjoy the natural resources and the need to protect those natural resources for all the future.
Management of the Ocean Shore could negatively affect the snowy plovers that live there, which would be considered take as defined under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts. "Take" describes anything that harms a protected species. Obvious acts like killing or injuring a plover are considered take, but so are not-so-obvious things like chasing, interrupting feeding, or scaring birds off nests. Take doesn't have to be intentional to be serious; it can be an accident.
To protect both the plover and the public's recreational access to Oregon's beaches, OPRD developed the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) with the Federal United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The HCP provides a balanced roadmap for both people and plovers to share the beach. The HCP concentrates plover recovery actions to 16 areas on the coast.
Western snowy plover nest - can you spot it?
Snowy Plover Management Areas
There are five OPRD-managed Snowy Plover Management Areas (SPMAs) in Oregon.
Clatsop Spit, Fort Stevens State Park
Necanicum Spit, Gearhart Ocean State Recreation Area
Nehalem Spit, Nehalem Bay State Park
Netarts Spit, Cape Lookout State Park - currently unmanaged
In addition, there are 11 areas on the Ocean Shore called Recreation Management Areas (RMAs). These areas front lands owned by other agencies or private citizens that may provide suitable nesting habitat.
- Bayocean Spit RMA
- South Sand Lake RMA
- Baker Beach RMA (managed by USFS)
- Sutton Beach RMA (managed by USFS)
- Siltcoos RMA (managed by USFS)
- Dunes Overlook RMA (managed by USFS)
- Tahkenitch RMA (managed by USFS)
- Tenmile RMA (managed by USFS)
- Coos Bay North Spit RMA (managed by BLM and ACOE)
- New River/Floras Lake RMA (managed by BLM)
- Elk River RMA
- Eucre River RMA
Shorebird Seasonal Beach Access Restrictions
OPRD and its partners enact seasonal recreation restrictions in shorebird conservation areas, SPMAs and RMAs to protect shorebirds. Keep in mind that only part of the beach is affected - the dry sand above the high tide line is set aside to either help nesting plovers, or to encourage them to start nesting. The wet sand still remains open to pedestrian and equestrian use. Dogs, motorized and non-motorized vehicles (including bicycles), and kites are prohibited on SPMAs and RMAs with active nesting during the seasonal restrictions. These activities are too risky to the birds; however, there are many beaches adjacent to the plover areas where visitors can enjoy these forms of recreation.
Seasonal recreation restrictions may occur within designated Shorebird Conservation Areas, which are comprised of Snowy Plover Management Areas (SPMAs) and Recreation Management Areas (RMAs). SPMAs are managed by OPRD and RMAs are managed by another agency. These restrictions are based on the plover occupancy status. Management areas where snowy plovers have exhibited breeding behavior are considered occupied; areas that may attract snowy plovers are considered unoccupied.
Occupied Shorebird Conservation Areas
Restrictions active from March 15 - September 15
Dogs, kites, and motorized and non-motorized vehicles prohibited; pedestrians and equestirans wet sand access only (see maps for South Coast and see maps for North Coast)
- Nehalem Spit SPMA (OPRD - NEW in 2015. RESTRICTIONS LIFTED THROUGH END OF YEAR)
- Baker Beach RMA (United States Forest Service, USFS - NEW in 2013)
- Sutton Beach RMA (USFS)
- Siltcoos RMA (USFS)
- Dunes Overlook RMA (USFS)
- Tahkenitch RMA (USFS)
- Tenmile RMA (USFS)
- Coos Bay North Spit RMA (Bureau of Land Management, BLM)
- Bandon SPMA (OPRD)
- New River/Floras Lake RMA (BLM)
Unoccupied Shorebird Conservation Areas
Restrictions active from March 15 - July 15: Dogs on leash, and voluntarily avoid dry sandy areas. Year-round vehicles (including bicycles) are prohibited (see maps).