California Climate Activists Seek to Close Hiking Trail for Preservation

On the Dana Point Headlands, halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, environmentalists are fighting to prevent the public from using a hiking route that runs along the edge of a cliff in an effort to protect endangered animals- specifically some mice.

Only 77 Pacific pocket mice remained as of the most recent count in 2022; these mice are the tiniest in North America. The path is their habitat. Activists are seeking to reduce the trail’s opening periods during times of high mouse activity in order to protect the species. The Dana Point Planning Commission granted permission to open up the Bluff Top Trail to the public daily from sunrise to sunset in May. While the city’s permission has been challenged by the California Coastal Commission, the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) is seeking to reduce the number of days where access is permitted and decrease the hours for trail use.

The environmentalists want to prevent people from enjoying the planet when the mice activity is at its peak.

In the summer, hikers would only be allowed access four days a week from 8 am to 6 pm, while in the winter, they would only be permitted access until 4 pm. It is one of the only places where the Pacific pocket mouse and the similarly endangered California gnatcatcher bird may be found as the trail winds its way through a rocky outcrop carpeted with coastal sage and other local vegetation. 

CNLM is worried about the possible harm to the mice, which are found only in two other locations—Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Camp Pendleton.

Next month, the Coastal Commission will examine the appeal and decide if the city’s first permission requires revisions; if so, a new permit will be granted. After years of litigation, a court ruling in 2022 finally granted CNLM and Dana Point permission to utilize the route every day.