U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service | Southeast Region News Release
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Private Sector Reach a Conservation First in the Caribbean

Culebra Northshore Habitat Conservation Plan Protects Sea Turtles and Valuable Habitat


March 8, 2001

Marelisa Rivera, (787) 851-7297, Ext. 31
Tom MacKenzie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (404) 679-7291

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with Culebra Northshore, S.E. (Special Entity) and William V. Mailloux, Managing Partner, has established the first ever Habitat Conservation Plan for the Caribbean. Culebra Northshore, comprising 26 hectares of land, is a proposed residential development on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico.

"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:

  • Donation or transfer of a 10-meter shoreline along the beachfront to the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER).
  • A setback of 120 feet from the maritime zone on the three beachfront lots.
  • A conservation easement on 2.2 hectares to protect natural forest and provide a buffer against upland erosion onto the beach.
  • Prohibitions on construction activities (e.g., beach armoring, beach nourishment), mechanical beach clearing, and vehicle traffic or animals on the beach, as well as removal or trimming of beach vegetation.
  • Directing pedestrian traffic to the beach on to only one boardwalk across the shoreline and sand dune area.
  • Erection of a low fence at the end of the maritime zone (where sand turns into hard soil) to control pedestrian and animal access.
  • A prohibition on the installation of artificial lighting on the beach and a requirement to close the beach to residents from sunset to sunrise.
  • The removal of recreation equipment from the beach by sunset and a prohibition on boating activities, camping, and fires on the beach.
  • A requirement for a site specific residence location on each lot that prohibits additional clearing on the lot.
  • Designing all residences to ensure they remain as single family units with a maximum size and height.
  • Requiring each owner to prepare a lighting plan to address sea turtle impacts. Periodic lighting surveys will be conducted by the landowner and Service personnel, and corrective measures will be required.
  • Prohibiting installation of street lighting on the roadways within the development and closing roads to the general public during evening hours (sunset to sunrise) to minimize vehicular lighting.
  • Routing vehicular traffic one way to minimize headlight glare.
  • Employing erosion control measures to reduce potential impacts to nesting habitat by eroded upland soils.
  • Providing educational materials about sea turtles to all owners, and construction of an informational display board at the entrance of the boardwalk.
  • Encouraging beach cleaning activities by the owners.
  • Providing trash containers for trash disposal.
  • Reporting nesting activities and marking nesting areas for avoidance until DNER personnel exercise supervision over the nests.
  • Promoting volunteer programs for sea turtle conservation projects.
The Service applauds the efforts of the landowner (Culebra Northshore, S.E) to work cooperatively, within the law, to protect endangered and threatened species from further destruction. Such cooperative efforts will serve as a successful example of the government and private sector working together to balance development and conservation to protect wildlife and their habitat for generations to come.

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.

Editor's note: Digital photos and B-roll are available. Call 787-851-7297 ext.29 for copies.

NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http:/southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.

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Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

2001 News Releases

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