Federal agency may close Guadalupe-Nipomo wildlife refuge
May 16, 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering closing the remote Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge for the next 15 years. Though the federal agency’s budget is growing, its fund for managing the national refuge system is shrinking.
The Guadalupe-Nipomo refuge consists of 2,553 acres of dunes in southern San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County. It is home to more than 120 species of rare plants and animals, and it can only be accessed by hiking two miles from the north or south. [Tribune]
In February, Fish and Wildlife officials released a 15-year plan that lists three options for managing the Guadlupe-Nipomo refuge. The federal agency is deciding between closing the refuge, continuing current management practices or increasing spending in order to draw more visitors and host more environmental education activities.
Since 2010, the national refuge system budget has decreased by more than $20 million while costs have increased, according to the 15-year plan. Fish and Wildlife currently spends $133,500 annually on managing the refuge. About 20 percent of that funding has been lost since 2010, said Michael Brady, the head of a national wildlife refuge complex that includes the Guadalupe-Nipomo refuge.
However, the overall Fish and Wildlife budget has increased during that span. The agency’s fiscal year 2010 budget was $2.76 billion, and its proposed fiscal year 2017 budget is $3.03 billion.
Last year, the the longtime manager of the refuge retired, and Fish and Wildlife officials opted not to replace him. Instead of keeping a staffer on site, the agency sends a worker from its Ventura office up to the refuge every couple weeks.
Fish and Wildlife officials say they would prefer to to keep the refuge open and increase public access, which would require more funding and help from volunteers. The proposal for keeping the refuge open calls for increasing its budget from $133,500 to $241,000.
A plan to create a 2-mile hiking trail that would lead visitors from the beach to the back-dune area and include stops at a pond, willow valley and a peak with panoramic views is also being considered.
The wildlife refuge was established in 2000 when the Nature Conservancy donated the land to the federal government. There is no road access to the area. Visitors can enter the refuge by hiking south from the Oso Flaco Lake beach trail or by hiking north along the beach from the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. Both hikes are about a four-mile round trip.
Fish and Wildlife officials are expected to make a decision in June or July about the future of the refuge. They are currently evaluating public comments.