The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has identified island and mainland coastal beaches in six states to propose as critical habitat essential for the survival of Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed Loggerhead Sea Turtles.
The proposed critical habitat areas include 90 nesting beaches in coastal counties located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. The proposed areas incorporate about 740 beach shoreline miles and account for approximately 84 percent of the documented nesting beaches within these six states.
Under the ESA, critical habitat identifies geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a listed species. Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the ESA by requiring federal agencies to consult with the Service on federal actions that may affect critical habitat and by prohibiting federal agencies from carrying out, funding or authorizing the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.
This is a proposed designation.
FWS is seeking public comment before making a final determination.
If you’ll recall in 2009 the fed’s proposed designating Palm Beach reefs as critical habitat for the survival of ESA listed staghorn coral. The Town of Palm Beach successfully challenged the proposal and reefs offshore of Palm Beach were denied the federal habitat protections.
Case in point: had that area been designated for ESA protection as originally proposed, the recent Flower Gardens Reef dredge damage would now be under federal investigation.
It is important you submit your comments to FWS.
Written comments and information concerning the proposal can be submitted by one of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2012–0103; or
- U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2012–0103; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM;, Arlington, VA 22203.
For loggerhead sea turtle terrestrial habitat, the FWS has identified primary threats that may impact the habitat, thus necessitating special management or protection, into 12 categories:
(1) Recreational beach use (beach cleaning, human presence (e.g., dog beach, special events, piers, and recreational beach equipment));
(2) Beach driving (essential and nonessential off-road vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, and recreational access and use);
(3) Predation (depredation of eggs and hatchlings by native and nonnative predators);
(4) Beach sand placement activities (beach nourishment, beach restoration, inlet sand bypassing, dredge material disposal, dune construction, emergency sand placement after natural disaster, berm construction, and dune and berm planting).
(5) In-water and shoreline alterations (artificial in-water and shoreline stabilization measures (e.g., in-water erosion control structures, such as groins, breakwaters, jetties), inlet relocation, inlet dredging, nearshore dredging, and dredging and deepening channels);
(6) Coastal development (residential and commercial development and associated activities including beach armoring (e.g., sea walls, geotextile tubes, rock revetments, sandbags, emergency temporary armoring); and activities associated with construction, repair, and maintenance of upland structures, stormwater outfalls, and piers);
(7) Artificial lighting (direct and indirect lighting, skyglow, and bonfires);
(8) Beach erosion (erosion due to aperiodic, short-term weather-related erosion events, such as atmospheric fronts, northeasters, tropical storms, and hurricanes);
(9) Climate change (includes sea level rise);
(10) Habitat obstructions (tree stumps, fallen trees, and other debris on the beach;
nearshore sand bars; and ponding along beachfront seaward of dry beach);
(11) Human-caused disasters and response to natural and human-caused disasters
(oil spills, oil spill response including beach cleaning and berm construction, and debris cleanup after natural disasters); and
(12) Military testing and training activities (troop presence, pyrotechnics and nighttime lighting, vehicles and amphibious watercraft usage on the beach, helicopter drops and extractions, live fire exercises, and placement and removal of objects on the beach).
FWS link: http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/SeaTurtles/2013_NWA_Loggerhead_CH/20130322_faq_Questions-n-Answers_proposed_loggerhead_critical_habitat.html