Legislation and Permit Evaluations
Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973. Section 6 of the ESA provides for funding to the states through Cooperative Agreements. States must show they have an “adequate and active” program for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. South Carolina was among the first group of states to sign a Section 6 Cooperative Agreement in 1976 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). South Carolina also was the first state to sign a Section 6 Cooperative Agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 1984. The two federal agencies with authority over sea turtles divided their jurisdiction. USFWS has jurisdiction when sea turtles are on the beach and the NMFS has jurisdiction when sea turtles are in the water. South Carolina receives Section 6 grant-in-aid funding from both agencies each year to carry out research, management, monitoring, and education activities for the conservation of sea turtles. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) formerly the Department of Wildlife and Marine Resources, passed the Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act in 1976. It affords protection of state listed endangered and threatened species. The state act is similar to the federal ESA. All federally listed species occurring in South Carolina appear on the list along with state listed species. Permits are required by our department to “take” any listed species. Take is authorized only for scientific research and/or education. Section 6 of the ESA also allows the states to authorize and permit individuals as “agents of the state”. Once trained by SCDNR, all volunteers that engage in nest protection or are on the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN) receive this authorization. Any construction project, such as beach nourishment or dredging, is reviewed by SCDNR. Recommendations are made to the federal or state agencies that will be issuing the permits, as to the timing or extent of the project, in order to avoid negative impacts to sea turtles on the beach or at sea.