Sierra Club and its Allies Act to Protect Endangered Leatherback Turtle from Development and Global Warming
August 15, 2011
In a significant wildlife victory, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced plans to revise the critical habitat designation for the endangered leatherback turtle in Puerto Rico. This decision comes in response to Sierra Club’s petition urging FWS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to protect the Northeast Ecological Corridor - a string of pristine sandy beaches in Puerto Rico that provide some of the last remaining nesting sites for the world’s largest turtle. FWS has formally determined that substantial science supports protecting the Corridor, and that the leatherback's critical habitat should be revised to address climate change and threats to Puerto Rico's beaches. There's more work to do, however, as FWS hasn't committed to a time table to get the job done - a necessary step as development pressure ramps up. Sierra Club attorney Craig Segall took the lead on this case, putting constant pressure on the federal government to adequately protect the leatherback’s dwindling habitat. The Club will press on until FWS issues final rules protecting these vital beaches.
May 5, 2011
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reversing its earlier denial, has issued a finding in response to Sierra Club’s petition, indicating that substantial science supports Sierra Club's request to revise critical habitat for the endangered leatherback turtle under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA has jurisdiction over sea turtles and their habitats in the marine environment.
November 3, 2010
On November 3, Sierra Club sent a second petition to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), urging the agency to designate critical habitat for the endangered leatherback turtle. The second petition comes in response to NOAA’s claim that the first petition did not present enough scientific information to support designating the Northeast Ecological Corridor as critical habitat for the world’s largest turtle.
June 15, 2010
On June 2, Sierra Club sent the Department of the Interior and Commerce, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NOAA Fisheries (collectively “the Service”) a notice of intent to sue for failing to properly conserve and protect the leatherback turtle and its habitat. The Service now has 60 days to respond before Sierra Club files a lawsuit.
April 29, 2010
On April 27, Sierra Club and more than 30 other groups took action to protect the endangered leatherback turtle from the impacts of development and global warming. The groups called on U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to designate the lands of the Northeast Ecological Corridor - a string of pristine sandy beaches on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico – as critical habitat for the endangered leatherback turtle.
Leatherback populations have declined across the globe and the 3,000-acre Northeast Ecological Corridor is among the last remaining American leatherback nesting sites that still holds a significant population, and is essential for the species' survival. The Corridor's beaches grow more important to the turtles every year, as global climate change profoundly alters the world's oceans. Rising sea levels are washing away nesting beaches and shifting currents and ocean acidification make it harder for the turtles to thrive in their habitat. And, because the temperature of the nest determines the gender of turtle hatchlings, global warming may lead to major imbalances within leatherback populations.
This latest action is one of many taken to protect the world’s largest turtle. In February 2010, Sierra Club petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to protect the Corridor as critical habitat for the leatherback. The Club is also engaged in a lawsuit, challenging the governor of Puerto Rico’s executive order and local planning board’s decision to remove the “nature reserve” designation for the Northeast Ecological Corridor. Removal of the designation opens up the Corridor to development of a hotel, golf course, and luxury homes, which could destroy nesting opportunities for turtles.
If the last nesting beaches aren’t protected for the leatherback turtle, the species may not survive through the century.
Details and Documents:
Leatherback Critical Habitat Revisions to be Assessed During Status Review
August 4, 2011, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Press Release
Leatherback Critical Habitat: Combined 90 Day Finding and 12 month Finding
August 4, 2011, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Sierra Club Notice Letter
June 2, 2010
Sierra Club Seeks Protection for Endangered Leatherback Turtles
February 22, 2010, Sierra Club Press Release
USFW to revisit leatherback nesting designation
August 5, 2011, The Daily Sun
Fight for Northeastern Ecological Corridor heats up stateside
April 29, 2010 by Xavira Neggers Crescioni, Puerto Rico Daily Sun
Sierra Club asks feds to protect PR coastal land
February 22, 2010 by David Mcfadden, Associated Press
See other "Promoting Resilient Habitats" cases.