Archived Story

NC-20 opposes sea turtle proposal

Published 10:49pm Saturday, May 4, 2013

NC-20 is strongly opposing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposed designation of 740 miles of coastline in six states as critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles.
The 740 miles includes 96 miles of North Carolina coastline and the entire shoreline of Bogue Banks in Carteret County.
NC-20 focuses on legislation and other things that could influence 20 coastal counties in North Carolina. Tom Thompson, former economic-development director in Beaufort County, is chairman of the organization.
Several nesting beaches for loggerhead sea turtles along the North Carolina coast have been preliminarily identified by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as important habitats for the recovery of the species. The Endangered Species Act requires the agency to identify potential habitats for the recovery of the species.
The agency has preliminarily identified areas of island and mainland coastal beaches in six states to propose as critical habitat. It is seeking public comment on the proposed critical habitat areas, which include 90 nesting beaches in coastal counties located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. The proposed areas account for approximately 84 percent of the documented nesting (numbers of nests) within these six states, according to the agency.
NC-20 contends the designation would adversely affect coastal projects, result in more regulatory hurdles for federal coastal projects and that USF&WS failed to include an economic analysis at the time of its proposal, as required in the Endangered Species Act.
A resolution opposing the designation states “the designation of critical habitat thirty-five years after the listing of the loggerhead sea turtle is the wrong management tool for the conservation of the species and NC 20, Inc., will continue to support the protection and recovery of the loggerhead sea turtle by utilizing effective management guidelines and rules currently in place, while evaluating new practices as they develop.”
Last month, a USF&WS spokesman explained the designation process.
“The habitats that have been identified are those with the highest amount of density of nesting occurrences. We’ve got a lot of turtles that are using those specific geographical areas. We’ve also identified areas adjacent to those areas because the coastline is somewhat living. So, it can shift from year to year. We want to give them some room for expansion because they will shift down the beach if erosion occurs to find suitable habitat,” said agency spokesman Chuck Underwood.
Underwood said the ongoing identification process helps the agency “focus our conservation efforts in those areas most important to the long-term conservation of the turtles.”
Underwood said a decision in the matter likely would come in a year to 18 months. As part of the process, a draft analysis of the proposal’s economic impact is required, he noted.
“Coastal beaches of the United States offer residents and visitors a wide array of commercial, residential and recreational opportunities. They also are home to a vast number of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, and in the case of the loggerhead sea turtle, provide vital nesting habitat,” said Cindy Dohner, the agency’s southeast regional director. “Identifying this habitat will help us work with coastal communities to protect loggerhead nests and ensure that more hatchlings reach the water and begin their lives at sea.”
Designating critical habitat on federal or nonfederal lands informs landowners and the public of the specific areas that are important to the conservation of the species. Identifying this habitat also helps focus the conservation efforts of other conservation partners, such as state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals.
“Through this action, we are taking a step to draw attention to important habitats needed to support the recovery of this magnificent species,” said Dohner.
To ensure that the final critical habitat designation is based on the best scientific data available, and is as accurate and effective as possible, the agency is seeking information and comments from all stakeholders and the general public.
For more information, including how to submit written comments about the proposed rule, visit www.fws.gov.

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