Carteret County’s public officials may be even more opposed to designating their beaches as critical habitat for endangered loggerhead turtles than Cape Fear-area leaders. Thursday night’s Morehead City public hearing on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule drew more than 100 citizens—compared to around 30 who attended Tuesday’s hearing in Charleston, and Wilmington’s 80 on Wednesday. Fish and Wildlife will now draft another version of the rule.
More than 30 concerned citizens went on record in Morehead City to argue that making their beaches into critical habitats would hurt tourism, thwart local turtle-protection efforts and impose bureaucratic restrictions on beach activity. Pete Benjamin, a field supervisor for Fish and Wildlife who sat on the panel, says last week’s hearings have spurred his organization to better analyze the rule’s effect on beach communities’ economies.
"There was a lot of concern that this could affect beach access and recreational activities, and we are trying to explain that this rule will not affect those types of actions. And there was also a lot of concern about what it may do to beach nourishment projects, so we’ve got some more work to do there to clarify that we don’t think these designations will have any significant impact on how beach nourishment’s conducted."
Following the present public comment period, which ends September 16, Benjamin says Fish and Wildlife will draft another version of the rule. They hope to finalize it by next July.
To file a comment on the proposed critical loggerhead habitat, click here.