FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2001
"No single government agency working alone can ensure the survival of the wildlife resources we all share," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. " It takes the cooperation of private landowners and a wide variety of other interests to conserve our nation's animal and plant species for the future."
"Yet when people examine the effects of their activities on the environment, they sometimes face what they see as a choice between conservation and the legitimate use of their land," continued Hamilton.
Congress addressed that issue in 1982 when it amended the Endangered Species Act to authorize Habitat Conservation Plans. When carefully implemented, these plans allow resource managers and property owners to carry out their lawful activities while becoming partners in maintaining wildlife habitat.
A 12-year incidental take permit for the Culebra Northshore Habitat Conservation Plan was issued on November 6, 2000. The proposed development calls for the sale of 45 residential lots over an 8-year period. Three of the lots border Tortola Beach, which is approximately 90 meters long and 15 meters wide. The permit authorizes the take of two leatherback or hawksbill sea turtle nests on Tortola Beach during the 12- year life of the permit. The Service has been monitoring sea turtle nesting activities on Culebra since 1984. Three hawksbill nesting activities have been reported on Tortola Beach, one in 1985 and two in 1995. Leatherback nesting has also been reported on Tortola Beach during 8 of the previous 14 years. During the 8 years when nesting occurred, an average of 2.5 nests per year were documented.
The Service works with private landowners and other non-federal entities to develop Habitat Conservation Plans that authorize incidental take of listed species. This historic agreement highlights the cooperative efforts between the Service and private sector to conserve and protect endangered species while not sacrificing landowners' rights to develop their property.
The Service's Boquerón Field Office worked closely with the landowner in the design of minimization and mitigation measures.
"Development and environmental protection are often considered to be mutually exclusive," said James Oland, the Service's Boquerón Field Office supervisor. "This project, however, demonstrates that the two can co-exist when efforts are made to address potential conflicts before they become a problem."
The Culebra Northshore, S.E. proposed 17 conservation measures to minimize and mitigate impacts from the proposed project to sea turtles and their nesting habitat. These measures include:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 531 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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