Sea Turtle Habitat Conservation Plan
Volusia County is dedicated to the protection of sea turtles and the habitat we share. For years, the county has actively protected coastal wildlife by implementing our Sea Turtle Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) [PDF]. The HCP was recently updated and approved for use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The acceptance of the new HCP is evidenced in the federal renewal of an Incidental Take Permit (ITP), which commits the county to protect sea turtles, piping plovers, other coastal wildlife, and their habitat while allowing public driving on parts of our beaches. Volusia County initiated the ITP renewal process on Oct. 19, 2001, before the former permit expired (Dec. 31, 2001). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed the county to continue operating under the same conditions as the expired permit until a new permit became effective on Nov. 7, 2005.
The county is proud of its efforts to protect coastal wildlife and has put forth more time, effort, and energy into protecting sea turtles than most other counties throughout the state. The county’s sea turtle protection, rescue, and educational measures have been incorporated into all aspects of our beach management programs, from law enforcement activities to trash collection.
The county has established natural beach management areas and conservation zones that are off-limits to public vehicles and protect sea turtles and sand dunes. Furthermore, because sea turtles mainly nest and hatch at night, the county has ended public vehicular access at those hours and restricts beachfront lighting. During sea turtle nesting season, the beaches are not open to public driving until every drivable mile has been inspected by specially trained and permitted sea turtle monitoring teams. Additionally, Volusia County has established a team of “Washback Watchers” who volunteer their time to search for and rescue young sea turtles that have been washed ashore by storms or tides.
A unique characteristic of the sea turtle program is the county’s Marine Science Center and Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Sanctuary, located in the Town of Ponce Inlet. These centers receive sick and injured sea turtles and birds, rehabilitate them, and return them to the wild once they are healthy. The tireless dedication of county staff has enabled Volusia County to expand its conservation and education activities and enter the realm of rescue and research.
In conclusion, the county’s efforts to separate sea turtles and vehicles, protect nests and nesting habitat, and provide a first response to sea turtles and birds that are sick or injured demonstrate Volusia County’s commitment to its wildlife and the habitat we share.
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