In July, the Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group marked a milestone in the conservation of sea turtle nesting habitat. In collaboration with partners at The Conservation Fund and the State of Florida, the Open Ocean Trustees completed the acquisition of a 3.25 acre privately-owned parcel within the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
The land acquisition is part of the Long-Term Nesting Beach Habitat Protection for Sea Turtles project. This project includes working with willing landowners to purchase parcels with high quality sea turtle nesting habitat that are connected to protected areas; thereby, minimizing fragmentation, reducing the risk of additional coastal armoring, and contributing to overall sea turtle protection.
The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge Partnership will will manage the newly acquired land, which includes approximately 400 feet of beachfront, high-density sea turtle nesting habitat. On Florida’s east coast, the Refuge hosts the largest nesting population of loggerhead and green sea turtles in the United States, accounting for a quarter of all loggerhead sea turtle nests and a third of all green sea turtle nests. Many of the sea turtles that range throughout the Gulf of Mexico nest at the refuge.
“These acres have been regarded as the ‘crown jewel’ of our recent acquisition effort,” said, Todd McNew, Florida Representative, Conservation Acquisition at The Conservation Fund. “Thanks to the collaborative effort, this land is now part of the state’s greater landholdings at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.”
Along with the neighboring partner-owned lands, the 3.25 acres will complete approximately 2,050 linear feet of continuous protected beachfront nesting habitat. Protecting this parcel within 600 acres of protected county, state, and federal lands will also reduce habitat fragmentation risks and threats to other wildlife. This project was years in the making with coordination between the landowner, The Conservation Fund, the Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gulf Restoration Office, the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the State of Florida, as well as other partners.
“The acquisition of this acreage, especially the 400 linear feet of beachfront nesting habitat, will significantly benefit nesting sea turtles,” said Jeremy Edwardson, Refuge Manager. “Protecting this valuable habitat will reduce human-caused disturbances, reduce future threats, and support sea turtle hatchling survival.”
It is estimated that tens of thousands of sea turtles in all life stages were injured or killed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and response activities. The Trustees will continue working with multiple partners and willing landowners to protect additional important nesting habitat near Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. More information on sea turtle restoration may be found in the Strategic Framework for Sea Turtle Restoration Activities.