Gulf of Mexico
Volunteers for the seashore’s Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery stand ready to wave off predators at a recent sea turtle hatching release. (Lucas Boland, Caller Times)

TX - LOCAL NEWS Padre Island National Seashore seeks public input for beach management plan. Here's what it means.

The National Park Service is seeking public input on the possible development of a beach management plan at Padre Island National Seashore — part of a process that advocates of the seashore’s Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery have said could spell doom for the program and for tourism in the area.

The park service is hosting three public, in-person meetings later this month and is accepting written comments submitted by mail, in person or online, according to a news release.

Padre Island National Seashore is the primary nesting beach in the U.S. for the Kemp’s ridley, the most endangered sea turtle species. The park has been a participant in a binational, multi-agency effort to save the Kemp's ridley since 1978.

Residents and supporters of the sea turtle program have raised concerns about its fate since 2020, when almost $300,000 of project funds — funds from the National Park Service that the program’s chief competed for and won over other parks — were diverted from the program.

The NPS has said the money was taken from the program because it was meant to fund monitoring of green sea turtles, a species that is more populous along Florida coasts than the Texas Gulf Coast.

That money made up almost a third of the Padre Island sea turtle program’s budget. To offset the loss, a 2020 review of the program proposed reducing employees’ overtime, scaling back beach patrols for the rescue of sea turtles and eggs, limiting research on sea turtles, reducing the number of public hatchling release events and limiting beach driving in part by requiring paid permits.

But implementing those proposals would mean fewer sea turtles are saved and could slash tourism, resulting in an economic hit to the region, advocates of the program have said. Limiting vehicles on the beach could also violate the Texas Open Beaches Act, which protects the public’s unrestricted access to beaches.

“People need to get on board and fight this by showing up, by commenting,” Jan Roberson, a former volunteer of the sea turtle program, told the Caller-Times. “Now, if the public decides, OK, this is better — well, OK, it’s better.”

Read more.