Park Service Masks Cuts in Sea Turtle Recovery

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022
Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028

Park Service Masks Cuts in Sea Turtle Recovery

Deceptive Press Release Omits Mentions of Rollbacks and Restrictions


Washington, D.C. – Padre Island National Seashore continues dismantling its globally renowned Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program but has issued a blatantly deceptive public statement to the contrary, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This latest action reinforces the lack of candor characterizing National Park Service (NPS) treatment of this program following a controversial unilateral decision in 2020 to collapse the program.

Last week, the park issued a press release that proclaimed: “Padre Island National Seashore Announces $300,000 in Additional Federal Funding for Sea Turtles.” However, it –

    • Omits mention that the park forced its Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program to forfeit $300,000 in grants previously awarded;
    • Downplays that the bulk of the funding ($200,000) goes to the U.S. Geological Survey, not to its own program in a grant awarded a year earlier; and
    • Fails to reveal the other $100,000 goes to a researcher based at the University of Florida.

The agency release references its own sea turtle expert, Dr. Donna Shaver, who is forbidden from speaking to the media and prevented from developing new research projects. Meanwhile, the overall base funding for her program has been reduced by $100,000 to the detriment of nest detection and relocation work needed to increase hatchling releases.

“The level of official duplicity at Padre Island Seashore is astonishing,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Padre Island Superintendent has refused to answer questions, even from the Nueces County Commission, about restrictions imposed on its sea turtle program. “Giving this false impression suggests that the park knows its real actions are indefensible.”

Dr. Shaver has been ordered to discontinue work on green sea turtles (the species most affected by last year’s big Texas freeze). Further, she has been stripped of management control over sea turtle nesting and stranding decisions, areas where she is the unparalleled expert, which are now made by an “inter-disciplinary” team, most of whom have no sea turtle expertise.

“In today’s Park Service, science does not stand a chance against the force of bureaucracy,” added Ruch. “The Park Service’s apparent goal is to confine the conservation scope of what was a globally preeminent program to work solely within park boundaries.”


Read the Padre Island press release

See ban on green sea turtle work

Examine declining sea turtle recovery capacity

Look at the Park Service decision to slash the sea turtle program

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