EHL sent a legal letter to state, federal, and local agencies detailing ongoing violations of laws that protect least terns and western snowy plovers.

Shorebirds have been decimated by man’s usurpation of the shoreline for development and incompatible recreation. Two endangered species – least terns and western snowy plovers – hang on at the mouth of the Santa Ana River in Orange County. Yet, contrary to regulations against trespassing and against bringing dogs to the beach, harassment of the birds is rampant. There are commercial dog operations with unleashed dogs and even motorized parachutes. 

County law enforcement, the state Coastal Commission, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service all tolerate the lawbreaking, despite repeated testimony at public hearings. The disruption to foraging at the shore and nesting in the sand causes intolerable harm to the birds, which need all their energy to undertake long migrations.

Progress was made last year when the State Lands Commission incorporated a provision into a new lease requiring the County of Orange to enforce its regulations. However, to date, the County has not changed its practices. 

On April 4, 2022, the law firm of Chatten-Brown, Carstens, & Minteer wrote on EHL’s behalf to Orange County, with copies to state and federal agencies. The letter detailed the many violations of the Public Trust Doctrine, California Coastal Act, California Environmental Quality Act, California Endangered Species Act, and Section 9 of the Federal Endangered Species Act, provided extensive documentation, and requested corrective action. 

Additional steps may be needed.