How We're Saving Sea Turtles
In 2015, Alachua Conservation Trust received grant funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create a pilot program using conservation easements to protect sea turtle nesting habitat.
Florida’s beaches attract more sea turtle nesting than anywhere in the country and annually the five species of sea turtles found in Florida lay a combined 40,000-84,000 nests each year. Each of these nests can contain over 100 individual eggs.
Under Florida law, the area landward of the Mean High Water Line (MHWL) is privately owned. Sea turtles along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast of Florida use this dry, sandy beach to lay their nests each year. Protecting this section of beach is crucial to the survival of the species.
Alachua Conservation Trust, the UF Law Conservation Clinic, and some of the country’s leading sea turtle experts teamed together to draft the first model conservation easement designed specifically to protect sea turtle nesting habitat on private property. This easement limits the ability for a future landowner to engage in activities that are detrimental to sea turtle nesting such as installing a sea wall or having bright lights facing the beach. With the help of the ACT Community Outreach Coordinator Melissa Hill, ACT surveyed 1,274 beachfront landowners owners across the state about their interest in putting a conservation easement on their property. This survey has allowed us to work with landowners who are interested in forever protecting their property from activities that would harm sea turtles.
In August of 2017, ACT recorded the first ever sea turtle focused conservation easement. Located in St. Johns County, Florida, this land will be forever protected to ensure that it remains viable sea turtle nesting habitat. Within a month of finalizing the conservation easement, a sea turtle had chosen to nest on this protected area. The property survived Hurricane Irma and two sea turtles have already nested on the property in 2018.
In April of 2018, ACT hosted a workshop in cooperation with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. This workshop served to instruct other Florida Land Trusts and local government in Florida of how adopt and implement a similar program to protect sea turtles in their local area. ACT staff later met with landowners and local governments in the Florida Keys to propose amending their local regulations allow for the city to accept these conservation easements as part of a building permit application.
ACT is currently working with landowners from the Keys to the Panhandle who are interested in selling or donating a conservation easement to protect sea turtles on their property. Click below to read:
The less-than-fee beachfront acquisition program is a cooperative effort between Alachua Conservation Trust and the University of Florida Levin College of Law Conservation Clinic that has been funded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, the Sea Turtle Conservancy, The Sea Turtle License Plate Program, the University of Florida School of Natural Resources.
If you are interested in learning more about this program or putting a conservation easement on your property to protect sea turtles, please contact:
Statewide Land Acquisition Specialist