It doesn’t take the federal government to convince people in the Lowcountry to protect loggerhead turtles. A small army of volunteers for decades has spent summers searching local beaches for loggerhead nests and protecting them from natural predators like raccoons.
Beachfront construction in some communities must not have bright outside lighting that discourages turtles from coming ashore to bury their eggs. And should turtles be harmed, the S.C. Aquarium nurses them back to health.
Still, it is good news that the federal government is stepping up to the challenge of protecting critical loggerhead nesting habitats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing restrictions on 739 miles of coast from Mississippi to North Carolina.
Any new beachside construction requiring federal permits would need to be reviewed to ensure nesting areas will not be harmed.
The government is also expected to propose in-water critical habitat areas later this year. Conservationists want wave-energy, offshore drilling and aquaculture projects to be analyzed by the government to ensure they won’t interfere with turtles’ migration.
Loggerhead sea turtles face serious threats to their long-term survival from drowning in fishing nets, loss of nesting beaches due to coastal development and sea-level rise.
“The Southeast’s nesting loggerheads swim thousands of miles through an obstacle course of human-made hazards,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protected beach habitat will help ensure that when they reach our beaches, exhausted and ready to nest, they’re met with true southern hospitality: plenty of food, good conditions for nesting, and safe beaches for hatchlings to leave their nests so they may someday return to continue the cycle of life.”
That’s a government rule even small-government advocates can like.