WJTV News Channel 12 - Carteret commissioners to consider opposing sea turtle proposal

Carteret commissioners to consider opposing sea turtle proposal

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Carteret County commissioners are worried a new proposal could affect your access to the beach.

The proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would designate coastal counties of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi as critical habitats for the loggerhead sea turtle. Hundreds of them come to our state's shores every year to lay eggs in the sand.

Carteret County commissioners are drafting a resolution against the proposal, which they'll present at their public meeting Monday.

Carteret County's Shore Protection Manager, Rudi Rudolph, is concerned whether the new proposal could restrict activities such as driving on the beach, walking your dog on the beach, and holding special events.

When asked whether the proposal could hurt tourism, Rudolph said: "It depends what level of extra regulations are imposed, but if it limits public access, that would definitely turn off tourists."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the proposal would not affect your access to the beach because it only applies to beach activities involving the federal government, such as beach nourishment projects involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Things like walking your dog on the beach, driving a car on the beach, unless the beach is federal property, there's no federal involvement in that activity, so critical habitat designation doesn't matter," said Pete Benjamin, a supervisor at the Raleigh office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For beach projects involving the federal government, the proposal would require an analysis of the potential impact into the loggerhead sea turtles' habitat, said Benjamin.

They're collecting public input on the proposal until May 24. To read the proposal, go to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-03-25/pdf/2013-06458.pdf#page=1

As of March 1, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated critical habitats for 661 of the 1499 species they have listed as a threatened or endangered species, according to the agency's website.

"We're required by law to do this. The Endangered Species Act says that we shall designate critical habitat for all species we list," said Benjamin. "We are behind in our work, in terms of getting designations of critical habitat done for all listed species."

If the proposal becomes a rule, it would take effect in about a year, said Benjamin.

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