September 5, 2023

Sea Turtle Nesting Habitat Protected on Florida's East Coast

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — The Conservation Fund, a leading non-profit in U.S. land protection, announced the completion of several critical additions to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) along central Florida’s east coast near Melbourne Beach. This refuge contains some of the world’s most significant habitat for loggerhead and green sea turtle nesting. Nationwide, roughly a quarter of all loggerhead sea turtle nests and a third of all green sea turtle nests are laid at Archie Carr.

Since the 1990s, The Conservation Fund and its partners at the Richard King Mellon Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the State of Florida and Brevard County have worked to acquire at-risk beachfront properties to establish and expand connectivity for sea turtle nesting habitat at the Refuge. Properties are acquired by The Conservation Fund and then transferred to USFWS, the State of Florida or Brevard County for their long-term protection. To date, over 75 properties totaling 237 acres have been protected by The Conservation Fund and its partners. Safeguarding these properties prevents undesirable coastal development, which can negatively impact habitat along the beach and cause light pollution that interferes with the natural nesting cycles of sea turtles.

“Sea level rise and extreme weather have made living in coastal Florida challenging to sustain,” said Rebecca Perry, The Conservation Fund’s southeast region senior field representative. “Hurricanes have ravished beachfront homes and insurance issues have skyrocketed. The coastal armoring often used to sustain homes and other oceanfront buildings, and the lighting associated with those buildings, would both be detrimental to sea turtle nesting habitat found at the refuge. Ensuring that these beachfront properties are protected in their natural state is a key solution for climate resiliency and habitat restoration long-term, and we are grateful to the dozens of private landowners who worked with us to see their properties protected.”

The Conservation Fund’s most recent effort — a 0.7-acre former residential property — was transferred to USFWS at the end of August, just in time for nesting season. Funding was provided by a Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund grant administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment’s Deepwater Horizon Fund. This was the final piece of a six-project effort at Archie Carr NWR that utilized these grant funds. Tracking data has shown that the turtles that nest at Archie Carr NWR eventually migrate to and forage in the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, protection of these sites will help ensure healthy populations of gulf sea turtles that were directly impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“This has been one of the most significant partnership land acquisition efforts to protect sea turtles,” said Mike Oetker, the USFWS’s acting regional director for the southeast region. “Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge hosts the largest population of loggerhead sea turtle nesting in the world, along with a growing number of green and leatherback sea turtles. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, we are hopeful about the vital role the addition of this parcel will play for protecting these species.”

“This acquisition of land in Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is a win for conservation,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Roger Young. “Thanks to funding from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and our strong partnerships with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the many others involved, this land will conserve critical sea turtle nesting areas and ensure long term protection for this important habitat.”

“Conserving parcels in the Archie Carr Sea Turtle Refuge — the second most significant nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles in the world — continues to be a partnership effort,” said Callie DeHaven, director, division of state lands at Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. “In this everchanging landscape, it is truly a conservation win when another piece of the puzzle is put into place. We sincerely thank The Conservation Fund for their ongoing long-term efforts that not only help protect this vulnerable species but for their role in conserving this small stretch of Florida’s fragile coastline.”

The Florida congressional delegation representing Brevard County, including U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator Rick Scott and U.S. Representative Bill Posey have supported conservation and restoration at Archie Carr NWR.

“Loggerhead and green sea turtles are integral not only to Spacecoast biodiversity but also to our culture,” said Congressman Bill Posey. “We proudly host the world’s largest nesting population of these turtles at Archie Carr Refuge. Our Spacecoast turtles migrate far and wide — even to the Gulf of Mexico. The Conservation Fund’s leadership is expanding and connecting this precious and critical resource with help from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment’s Deepwater Horizon Fund, the Florida DEP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Brevard County. Our Spacecoast community owes them all a debt of gratitude and I join in celebrating this latest triumph for our environment. This is an achievement of national as well as regional importance. Thanks for your public service!”

In addition to critical sea turtle nesting habitat, Archie Carr NWR hosts a variety of bird species, reptiles, fish, mammals and invertebrates including brown pelicans, gopher tortoises, snakes, manatees and crabs that thrive in the refuge’s biodiverse habitats including beach and dunes, coastal strand and scrub, maritime hammock and mangroves.

About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund protects the land that sustains us all. We are in the business of conservation, creating innovative solutions that drive nature-based action in all 50 states for climate protection, vibrant communities and sustainable economies. We apply effective strategies, efficient financing approaches, and enduring government, community and private partnerships to protect millions of acres of America’s natural land, cultural sites, recreation areas and working forests and farms.