As I write this response, I see Henry Sarria smiling, thinking back to the first time he and I got into a debate in the Daily Nexus in 1994. Then, it was over Mobil Oil’s proposed Clearview Project. I was a new student at the time, and Henry was a veteran Isla Vistan. Two weeks after our newspaper dialogue, we met for the first time, drank beers together and have been friends since.

Years later, I feel compelled to respond to another of Henry’s articles. As you know, Henry, it’s nothing personal. Hot tubs, spotlights and non-native species aside, let’s focus on the real issue here: the Western Snowy Plover.

There has been much attention paid of late to the plight of this rapidly vanishing shorebird. The reasons for its decline are many, but human interference is a highly probable culprit. Indeed, this is the case with many species on the brink of disappearing from the face of our Earth.

To address the declining populations at Sands Beach, Christina Sandoval of the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve System and friends have begun a campaign to protect the species. As Henry mentions, and as most of us have seen, Sands Beach is now laden with signs, ropes, et cetera in an effort to 1) educate the beach-going public about these birds, and 2) help rebound the species.

The steps that have been taken by the Reserve since nesting season have had predictable results: more wildlife in the area, more plovers and even a couple of hatched plover chicks. And for the most part, access to the beach remains open to surfers, swimmers, runners and the rest.

So I ask the question, “Isn’t it possible to provide protection for the plover while still providing for human use?” As we have seen at Sands, the answer is yes.

Now, I’m no off-road biker, so as for the concerns regarding the bikers’ “Grand Canyon,” I can’t respond. But I can say this: There is an ongoing process by which the public can voice their concerns. Bikers, get involved! Talk to the Reserve managers. Advocate for solutions that protect the plovers while meeting your needs. The same goes for any other users of Sands Beach.

We have a genuine opportunity to avoid what happened just up the coast in Lompoc – the complete closure of the beach in order to protect this species. Obviously, this move infuriated the community. Then again, the community there was quick to criticize and not as prone to cooperate as the UCSB/Isla Vista community is or should be.

Please take the time to get involved. We have an ecological crisis on our hands that we must address with a new wave of thinking. We all have our personal interests, but let’s try and look through a wider-angle lens. If we can pull it off, and I know we can, the naysayers will be left scratching their heads in confused bewilderment. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Henry, next beer’s on me.

Eric Cardenas graduated from UCSB with a degree in political science and environmental studies in 1998. He was a chair of UCSB’s Environmental Affairs Board from 1996-98.