Sierra Club
Ventana Chapter  
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet  
Politics and Issues
Chapter Organization
Contact Us
National Sierra Club
California Sierra Club
Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Ventana Chapter Retains Third Expert to Submit Comments to the CCC Challenging the Habitat Protection Plan for Monterey Bay Shores Resort

February 2017
Snowy Plover Western snowy plover nesting in undisturbed habitat currently on the site of the proposed Monterey Bay Shores Resort. (Photographer: Steve Zmak).

The Chapter continues to oppose development in 39 acres of beachfront dune habitat for federally protected western snowy plover. In addition to Dr. Peter Baye, coastal ecologist and Dr. Scott Cashen, wildlife biologist and foremost authority on western snowy plover, the Chapter has now retained avian ecologist Michael Morrison to comment on the Project developer, Ed Ghandour’s Habitat Protection Plan (HPP). The Project calls for a 1.34 million foot mixed-use resort in Sand City which entails approximately 680,000 cubic yards of grading, utility extensions and infrastructure, and related development (e.g., roads, parking lots, signs, and lights). The chief concern is the long-term presence of breeding western snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus) on this site.

Dr. Michael Morrison, relying on nearly 40 years of work in avian ecology and wildlife management, reviewed the HPP and associated appendices. While the stated goal of the HPP is to demonstrate the developer can construct the Project without modifying or degrading critical habitat for the plover to the level that it will kill or injure wildlife, Dr. Morrison’s concludes that this is not the case. In his January 25, 2017 letter, he sets out arguments that based on the size of the proposed project, and the subsequent amount and intensity of human activity, there is nothing that can be done to eliminate or even develop meaningful on-site mitigation in the Project area for snowy plovers. He bases his conclusions on the following critical facts:

• Snowy plovers react to human disturbance, even when the source of disturbance is a considerable distance away. Studies have shown that snowy plovers require a buffer zone free of human disturbance that extends at least 100 meters from the nest site. Plovers did not acclimate to, or successfully find refuge from, human and human-related disturbance; feeding rates also declined with increased human activity. The Project site is not large enough to install effective “nest protection zones” for snowy plovers.

• The HPP divides the Project site into multiple “habitat management areas”. There are two proposed areas for nesting comprising of about 10 acres. Human access to these areas will be developed including three beach access ways, a public vista point, and two private resort vista points. Thus, plovers will be confined to two management areas that will have substantial human visitation. Based on the known intolerance of plovers to human activity within a mean distance of 80 m (262 feet), and the known distribution of plovers across the Project site, no locations within designated management areas will allow for occupancy, let alone successful nesting, by plovers.

• The HPP includes a Predator Management Plan (PMP) which acknowledges that multiple species could be responsible for predation of plovers and their nests, yet provides no specific plans on how predator management might be implemented.

Dr. Morrison concludes that the HPP and PMP are hopelessly vague with regard to all aspects of plover management. He states it is evident that the HPP and PMP will completely fail to reach the goal of retaining plovers in the Project area. Therefore, there is no doubt that “take” of the western snowy plover will occur associated with implementation and operation of the Project. (Attached is Dr. Morrison’s full letter and scientific references).


< back to all issues

section title

Ventana Chapter Retains Third Expert to Submit Comments to the CCC Challenging the Habitat Protection Plan for Monterey Bay Shores Resort
February 2017

Sierra Club Files a Notice of Intent to Sue for Violations of the Endangered Species Act from Construction and Operation of the Monterey Bay Shores Development
August 2016

Ventana Chapter Submits Comments to the California Coastal Commission Challenging the Revised HPP for Monterey Bay Shores Resort
March 2016

Ventana Chapter Submits 2 Sets of Expert Comments on Biological Resources and Snowy Plover Habitat for Monterey Bay Shores Resort Dunes Restoration Plan
August 2015

Monterey Bay Shores Resort Hearing at the California Coastal Commission
May 2015

Financial Settlement Reached in Lawsuit between Monterey Bay Shores Resort and Lender
February 2015

California Coastal Commission Votes to Schedule Collections Resort Appeal Hearing in 2015
December 2014

New Financial and Compliance Woes for Monterey Bay Shores Resort
November 2014

Plans for Monterey Bay Resort Deemed Deficient
September 2014

Public Outcry Over Threats to Snowy Plover Nests at Sand City Project Site
May 2014

Coastal Commission Approval of Sand City Resort and Condominium Project Undermines Rare Species Recovery Plan
April 2014

Sierra Club Submits Letter Opposing Monterey Bay Shores Resort to California Coastal Commission
April 2014

Chapter Appeals Sand City Approval of The Collection Resort to the California Coastal Commission
January 2014

Chapter Urges Sand City City Council to Deny The Collection at Monterey Bay Resort Project
November 2013

Monterey Bay Shores Eco-Resort Decision may go to Appeals Court
August 2013

Chapter Submits Comments on The Collection at Monterey Bay Proposed Mega Hotel Complex in Sand City
February 2013

Coastal Commission Denies Dunes Project
February 2010

Sierra Club opposes Coastal Dunes Resort
April 2009