Florida’s world famous beaches are enjoyed by millions of visitors and residents each year and are also home for threatened and endangered coastal wildlife like sea turtles, shorebirds, seabirds and beach mice. To better share the beach, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, an appointed steering committee, and stakeholders has drafted a Florida Beaches Habitat Conservation Plan. The draft plan will:
Cover beachfront construction in 25 Florida counties with established coastal construction control lines, plus sandy beaches in Monroe County.
Guide the department and permit applicants in avoiding, minimizing and mitigating threats to coastal wildlife through coastal construction permits.
Set clear wildlife protection standards for coastal construction and beach operations.
Incorporate innovative technologies to make regulatory data more accessible and impact assessments more predictable.
Balance human social, economic and recreational needs with long-term protection of threatened and endangered species on Florida’s beaches and dunes.
Threatened and Endangered Coastal Wildlife on Florida’s Beaches and Dunes
In order to provide more protection to coastal wildlife listed as federally threatened and endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the department is focusing the plan’s protective measures on 12 species or types of animals:
Five sea turtles: Green (Chelonia mydas), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi).
Five beach mice: Choctawhatchee beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus allophrys), Southeastern beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus niveiventris), St. Andrews beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus peninsularis), Anastasia Island beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus phasma) and Perdido Key beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis).
Two shorebirds: Red knot (Calidris canutus rufa) and piping plover (Charadrius melodus).
In addition, six other types of coastal wildlife are likely candidates for future federal listing and are covered in the plan:
Five beach nesting birds: American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), black skimmer (Rynchops niger), least tern (Sternula antillarum), snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus tenuirostris) and Wilson’s plover (Charadrius wilsonia).
Santa Rosa beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus leucocephalus).
Basic Elements of the Habitat Conservation Plan Include:
List of activities and species for which incidental take authorization is being requested.
Description of the plan area.
Identification of potential impacts resulting from the proposed action.
List of alternatives to the proposed action.
Duration of the permit.
Minimization and mitigation measures.
Funding and implementation of the plan.
The intent of the draft Florida Beaches Habitat Conservation Plan is to accompany an application for a federal Incidental Take Permit to cover activities permitted by Florida’s Coastal Construction Control Line Program. Incidental Take Permits are processed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the federal Endangered Species Act and, if issued, are valid for 25 years.
To assist in the development of the plan, the initial structure of the planning process included a steering committee and a working group of stakeholders appointed by the secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Chair).
Florida Department of Community Affairs (until 2011).
Florida Association of Counties.
Florida League of Cities.
Lee County Tourism Development Council (hotel/tourism).
Audubon Society (conservation group).
Sea Turtle Conservancy (conservation group).
Humiston and Moore Engineers (regulated industry).
Working Group Staff
Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Florida Natural Areas Inventory.
The draft Florida Beaches Habitat Conservation Plan was approved by the steering committee and shared with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the spring of 2019. Prior to implementation of the plan and requirements of an associated federal Incidental Take Permit, the Florida Legislature must authorize changes to coastal construction policies in state law, Chapter 161, Florida Statutes.
The year 2019 was a transitional year for the Beaches HCP with the completion of the draft plan, the final meeting of the HCP steering committee and closing of grant funded positions and contracts. FWC and DEP staff have picked up HCP implementation responsibilities; created a new website; worked on gaining a better understanding of the proposed program changes, fiscal impacts and mitigation fees; and prepared draft statutory amendments. Staff are also setting up communications with USFWS to clarify department and state responsibilities under the HCP.
In 2020 minor progress was made on the Florida Beaches Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) with further development of a draft legislative package and the regulatory framework needed in DEP to implement the HCP.
In 2021, DEP and FWC have engaged again in interagency staff meetings focused on an assessment of HCP implementation. From the working sessions, staff drafted milestones for the next steps to finalize the HCP and submit an application for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to FWS. Staff have also identified the need to update HCP information on species status, habitat and Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL) rule and organizational changes, and to more fully detail resources required for the CCCL program to fully implement the HCP. A Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grant has been approved by the USFWS for a final phase in the development of an HCP for Florida Beaches. The $233,333 federal grant from the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund requires a 25% state match and expires October 31, 2024.
In 2022, FWC and FDEP are partnering on the planning project to complete the draft HCP, with the bulk of the work to be contracted with an environmental consulting firm having expertise in both coastal construction and HCPs. USFWS, FWC and FDEP staff continue work on HCP strategies and a legislative proposal for the Florida Legislature’s consideration of changes to state law that are needed to cover the HCP’s species and activities and implement the program.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.