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Green Sea Turtle Critical Habitat Proposed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and CNMI; Public Comment Period through October 17, 2023

Announcements, Federal Register Notices, News and Updates, Protected Species

On July 18, 2023, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published proposed rules to designate critical habitat for populations of green sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). USFWS and NMFS will conduct joint public hearings between August 10-30, 2023, to seek input on the proposal. The schedule for the hearings is listed below.

Proposed areas include terrestrial and marine habitats in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and CNMI. USFWS and NMFS share jurisdiction for sea turtles listed under the ESA, with USFWS covering terrestrial (land) areas, and NMFS covering marine areas. Critical habitat is defined as an area that contains habitat features that are essential for the conservation of a species. USFWS is proposing to designate critical habitat on land where green sea turtles bask, nest, incubate, hatch and travel to the sea, which includes beaches, sandy shoals, and coastal vegetation between the mean high water line and the beginning of dense vegetation, cliff or coastal structures. NMFS is proposing to designate marine critical habitat from the mean high water line to 20 meters depth to protect access to nesting beaches, migratory corridors and important feeding and resting areas.

Critical habitat is a tool used in the ESA consultation process to ensure that federally funded, authorized or permitted activities do not destroy or severely modify the species’ habitat. It does not, by itself, create a protected area or restrict access, and does not stop development or directly impact activities that do not have a federal nexus. Most projects move forward without modifications after consultation with UWFWS or NMFS. If USFWS or NMFS determines that an activity will likely impact critical habitat, then it must work with the responsible federal agency or other entity to modify the activity or take precautions to protect the habitat.

Additional resources on the proposed rule:

Overview of the USFWS proposed rule to designate critical habitat in terrestrial habitats in the Pacific Islands: https://www.fws.gov/project/green-sea-turtle-critical-habitat-pacific-islands

NMFS proposed rule and supplemental materials for critical habitat in marine habitats: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/proposed-rule-designate-critical-habitat-green-sea-turtles

Public hearing schedule

Hawaii (virtual):  August 10, 2023, 6 PM to 8 PM Hawaiian time. Registration is required.

American Samoa (in-person at the Governor Rex Lee Auditorium):  August 16, 2023, 6 PM to 8 PM Samoan time. Doors open at 5:30 PM.

Guam (in-person at the Hilton Guam Resort):  August 21, 2023, 6 PM to 8 PM Chamorro time. Doors open at 5:30 PM.

Saipan (in-person at the Crowne Plaza Resort):  August 23, 2023, 6 PM to 8 PM Chamorro time. Doors open at 5:30 PM.

Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic (virtual):  August 29, 2023, 6 PM to 8 PM Eastern time. Registration is required.

California (virtual):  August 30, 2023, 6 PM to 8 PM Pacific time. Registration is required.

For more information on each of the meetings, see: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/event/public-hearings-proposed-critical-habitat-green-sea-turtles-under-endangered-species-act

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