The 12-member California Coastal Commission unanimously approved a plan Friday to close off a 400-meter stretch of Sands Beach for two years to protect western snowy plovers.

The decision grants UCSB’s Coal Oil Point Reserve a permit to fence off the area except for a narrow walking path along the wet sand. Although the permit comes up for review by the Coastal Commission in two years, the fencing is intended to be permanent.

County staff had said they would ask the Coastal Commission to postpone a decision on the plans to give more time for public debate. No one spoke against the proposal at the meeting, but some residents of Isla Vista had criticized it earlier for being too hastily prepared and for poorly defining disturbances to plovers.

The scientific report showed that temporary fences decreased the disturbances to plover by 90 percent, but disturbance was defined as any time a plover ran or flew.

Coastal Commission staff reviewed and recommended the report to the CCC board, calling it an appropriate blend of public access and conservation.

-Nexus Staff Report