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OC offers public access to protected species.

OC offers public access to protected species.

DANA POINT, Calif.  Two lawsuits have been filed over a short-distance hike that has some of the best views in Dana Point.

It boils down to public access versus protecting species.


What You Need to Know

  • The Pacific pocket mouse is endangered
  • Three days a week, the Headlands trail is available
  • Dana Point claims it should be open seven days per week
  • CNLM claims that it was clear that public access to the area during the pandemic was a threat to protected species after revisiting the subject.

The Pacific pocket mouse, though tiny, has caused some serious problems at Dana Point. It is an endangered species, and it was discovered at the Headlands. Joe Muller (Dana Point Mayor) says that the Headlands has stunning views.

Muller was walking along the trail when he pointed out to the ocean some of the places you can view from the Headlands.

He said that you have Catalina Island right there. Then, in the distance, you can see San Clemente Island. It’s a very special place.

He says that you’ll find something new every time you visit this place.

Muller stated that this was one of the first places he saw a whale from.

Muller said that you have a limited chance of seeing such things because the gate at the Headlands is locked four days a weeks. The gate is closed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

He stated that the trail should be open from 7:00 a.m. until sunset every day.

The mayor explained that the agreement between the state coastal commissioner and private developers was made in 2010 to build homes at Strands Beach. The city attorney and the mayor both claim that limiting hours at Headlands is a violation to California’s Coastal Act and the city’s municipal codes.

The mayor stressed that everyone has a right here.

He said that it was almost like a slap in front of the community when we arrived to find the gates locked.

This area is managed and maintained by the Center for Natural Lands Management, a non-profit organization. The group refused to give an interview but sent this. StatementThe same one was duct-taped to one the informational displays on the hike.

According to the statement, the center has had to face two challenges: protecting these species and allowing the public to enjoy them.

The trail was temporarily closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020), but it was reopened in mai 2020. The agency stated that it took that time in order to examine the impact of public access on species like the Pacific pocket mice.

In its statement, the nonprofit claimed that it was clear public use was a danger to the protected species.

It included references to scientific literature and studies, but it did not include specifics.

Spectrum News 1 sent a follow up email to the Center for Natural Lands Management in order to clarify which studies and scientific literature it was referring too. Dr. Deborah L. Rogers, the Co-Executive Director, replied with the following:

We had searched for and reviewed many scientific papers  well over 100. Some of these are summaries and analyses of large collections (e.g., one paper represents a review of nearly 300 scientific papers on the topic). It’s not an easy task to provide them. This topic  impacts from public use of trails on wildlife  is a rapidly growing field of research and there are many publications. Here are a few excerpts from some of the scientific papers.

In fact, the most fundamental principle of recreational ecology (an interdisciplinary field that studies and manages the ecological effects of recreational activities) is that if outdoor recreation are allowed in an area, then impacts to the ecosystem are inevitable (Dr. DAntonio in 2020).

See Also

Evidence is growing that shows non-consumptive recreational activity like hiking is not a problem. [doesnt]Resource harvesting can have detrimental effects on species and their habitats.

Outdoor recreation is often considered compatible with biodiversity conservation. It’s permitted in most protected areas throughout the world. There are increasing evidences that recreational activities can have negative effects on animals. We conducted a systematic review and analysed 274 articles about the effects of non-consumptive recreational activities on animals. This included all taxonomic groups and geographic locations. We assessed evidence for the effects of recreation, quantified trends and identified knowledge gaps. Despite low publication rates and knowledge gaps, the evidence was strong with more than 93% of reviewed articles documenting at most one effect of recreation on animals. The majority (59%) of these were negative effects. (Larson et al 2016).

Since 2015, Shauna Kings of San Diego Wildlife Alliances has conducted research on the Pacific pocket mice. (The alliance is not involved with the lawsuits in Dana Point.

King stated that the main threats to the species are habitat destruction, which is due to development as well conversion of the habitats through invasive species. However, she pointed out that the animals are nocturnal.


The Center for Nature Lands Management alleged that the city was hostile and aggressive in its statements and filed a lawsuit in part to reverse city fines.

Muller said that they were hoping to avoid the city’s counter-sue.

He said that it was regrettable. Nobody wants to litigate.

This is especially true since the mayor states that both sides are in agreement.

All of us care about the environment. We care about endangered species. We want to help them as much as possible.

Muller stated that both sides want to keep public access open, but that there is disagreement about how to do this.

Find current hours and trail information here Here.

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