US Government creates first habitat conservation plan for the Caribbean
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has established its first Habitat Conservation Plan in its Caribbean territories in order to protect sea turtle habitat in Puerto Rico.
The FWS’s Habitat Conservation Plan, which enables property owners to develop sites while becoming partners in maintaining wildlife habitat was established in 1982, but until now has had no takers in the US’s Caribbean dependencies, which are rich in biodiversity, but also have a high population density.
The new plan will allow a property developer, Culebra Northshore, to develop a site on the island of Culebra, which backs onto a beach where both leatherback and hawksbill turtles nest. Culebra Northshore have proposed 17 conservation measures to minimise and mitigate impacts from their proposed project to sea turtles and their nesting habitat, including:
- donating part of the shoreline to the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources;
- measures to protect natural forest near the beach, provide a buffer against erosion and limit construction;
- limiting pedestrian traffic to the beach;
- prohibiting street lighting on the roadways within the development and closing roads to the general public during evening hours and;
- providing educational materials about turtles to all home owners, encouraging them to clean the beach and promoting volunteer programs for sea turtle conservation projects.
“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 FWS. “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.”
“Development and environmental protection are often considered to be mutually exclusive,” said James Oland, a local FWS supervisor. “This project, however, demonstrates that the two can co-exist when efforts are made to address potential conflicts before they become a problem.”
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