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The last few months have brought a lot of good news for wildlife and the environment: reinstated protections and a return to forward progress on certain climate policies. For some, though—like the endangered sea turtles of Texas’s Padre Island National Seashore—this year hasn’t been so rosy.
With 70 miles of coastline, Padre Island National Seashore is the longest remaining stretch of undeveloped barrier islands in the world. It also protects Laguna Madre, one of only a few hypersaline lagoons on the planet, and rare coastal prairies. This unique collection of ecosystems provides a home or migratory stopping point for almost 400 species of birds and more than 40 different kinds of butterflies. Most importantly, it is also a nesting ground and important habitat for five endangered species of sea turtles, including the Kemps Ridley sea turtle, the rarest sea turtle in the world. More Kemps Ridley sea turtles nest at Padre Island than any other location in the U.S., and the park’s Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program (STSR) is an integral part of those nests’ safety.
Last year, an internal review by the National Park Service decided to cut the budget of the STSR by a whopping 30 percent. Though sea turtle nesting season is well underway in Texas, that cut has yet to be redressed. The STSR has been struggling to complete its mission with limited beach patrols and tighter restrictions on how many nests can be moved. Both cutbacks leave the nests and baby turtles vulnerable to vehicles (allowed year-round on Texas beaches), harassment, and accidental destruction. With such low numbers in the wild already—especially for Kemps Ridley sea turtles—these reptiles can ill afford a bad nesting year.
Want to make your voice heard? Reach out to your senators and representatives and urge them to support a restoration of the STSR budget.