The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their range, and the conservation of the ecosystems on which they depend. A species is considered threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future. There are approximately 1,880 endangered species. Waters surrounding our barrier islands are home to six endangered species and five threatened species; including all five turtle species listed.
The ESA requires the Federal government to designate "critical habitat" for any species it lists. Critical habitat is defined as: Specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing.
A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge. It applies only when Federal funding, permits, or projects are involved. Critical habitat requirements do not apply to citizens engaged in activities on private land that do not involve a Federal agency.