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Designated habitat proposal for Loggerheads have some concerned

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) –- The US Fish and Wildlife Service is taking steps to further protect the Northwest Atlantic population of Loggerhead sea turtles.

Wednesday night, the agency hosted a public meeting for citizens and elected leaders to voice their concerns about the proposal.

Loggerhead sea turtles have been on the threatened species list since 1978. To help the population recover, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing designating hundreds of miles of shoreline along the southeast and Gulf coasts as critical habitats.

“Critical habitat is one step in that process,” said Pete Benjamin, Field Supervisor of the Raleigh Field Office.

An attorney for New Hanover County said North Carolina averages about three nests per mile while South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida average anywhere from 24 to 124.

"It's not necessary in North Carolina because there are just not the nests here that are necessary for the survival of the species,” said attorney Todd Roessler.

Others believe their communities are already doing enough to protect the Loggerheads.

"Everything that I heard tonight, our town at least, is already doing as far as saving the turtles,” said Topsail Beach Commissioner Grier Fleischhauer.

Saving the economic benefit the beaches provide was also a concern for many people. But, not everyone sees the designation as a threat.

"We are seeing more and more nests every year and I think any economic impact, which is minor, will be a worthwhile investment,” said Jodi Smith of the Carolina Beach Town Council.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said critical habitat only comes into play when there is some other federal action involved. It said most of the activity that occurs on the beach will not be affected.

"Sun-bathing, beach driving, all those things people do on the beach is not going to be affected at all by this rule,” Benjamin said.

The agency said you can mail your comments or go to its website and submit your concerns there if you could not make it out to the meeting. It hopes to have this rule published by next July.

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