Each year loggerhead sea turtles cross the entire Atlantic Ocean to nest on the beaches of the south east. Sadly, the beaches they travel hundreds of miles to reach are threatened by climate change, coastal development and increasing human use -- all dangerous for the turtles.
In March the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect more than 739 miles of beaches in the region as "critical habitat" -- giving loggerheads a fighting chance against the threats they face at the end of their epic journey.
Critical habitat helps local and national governments plan and manage threats to endangered species and their habitat. And it works: Species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those without it.For loggerheads this protection will mean safe places for laying eggs, and those eggs will have a better chance of survival.
Please, send a message to urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to finalize habitat protections for loggerhead sea turtles.
I am writing in strong support of the proposal to designate critical habitat for the northwest Atlantic Ocean "distinct population segment" of loggerhead sea turtles as required under the Endangered Species Act. I urge the immediate adoption and implementation of regulations that support the critical habitat protections proposed for 739.3 miles of coastline in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi that cover 84 percent of loggerhead sea turtles' nesting areas.
[Your comment will be added here]
Critical habitat designation will help cities, counties and states plan coastal activities and mitigate threats to existing and potential future loggerhead nesting habitat. By clearly identifying the critical habitat areas, the designation provides planners with notice of the areas that should be protected.
The nesting areas proposed for protections are part of the most significant loggerhead nesting assemblages in the Western Hemisphere -- one of the two largest loggerhead nesting assemblages in the world. Protecting this habitat could save these threatened turtles from extinction.
Loggerhead sea turtles face threats from climate change, coastal development and increasing human use of the habitats they rely on. Even when these threats do not kill sea turtles directly or destroy habitat, the added environmental stress and habitat degradation decreases nesting success, hatching success and hatchling survival -- all of which decrease loggerhead sea turtles' potential for reproduction and recovery.
Beyond the proposed critical habitat, I implore you to extend the designation to the nesting beaches Indian River, St. Johns and Volusia counties in Florida, which currently have only "habitat conservation plans." Unlike critical habitat protections, these plans cover only specific activities harmful to sea turtles and their habitat and not the full spectrum of threats. These agreements expire and are vulnerable to changes in local budgets and administration.
I also urge you to consider adding more nesting beaches, upland areas and unoccupied habitat areas to the proposed designation to provide loggerheads access to alternative nesting areas that will be necessary as populations increase and climate change triggers sea-level rise and increases sand temperatures to reduce current habitat.