loggerhead turtles

Wikimedia Commons

In 2006, the United States Senate established Endangered Species Day to recognize efforts to conserve imperiled species. May 15th marks the celebration’s tenth year. Some endangered reptiles enhance the tourism economy in the Cape Fear region. 

Four types of sea turtles lay their eggs along the coast of southeastern North Carolina: loggerheads, green sea turtles, leatherbacks, and a few Kemp’s Ridley. Once a hatchling makes it to the ocean, the sea turtle has a one in one thousand chance of survival.

Courtesy NOAA

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.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faced local opposition at last night’s public hearing on its proposed rule that would designate hundreds of miles of beaches along the North Carolina coast as critical habitat for endangered loggerhead turtles. Much of the same land doubles as a critical habitat for the wintering piping plover, a threatened shorebird. Fish and Wildlife faced similar contention in 2001 when this rule went into effect.  But since then, they’ve seen a gradual recovery in the piping plover population.