Sierra Club Chapter Launches Petition Drive Over Padre Island Sea Turtle Program

A Sierra Club chapter in Texas wants Assistant Interior Secretary Shannon Estenoz to meet with them to discuss their concerns over the sea turtle program at Padre Island National Seashore run by Dr. Donna Shaver/Rebecca Latson file

A Sierra Club chapter in Texas has launched a petition drive in a bid to raise concerns over the direction of the sea turtle program at Padre Island National Seashore.

The Lone Star chapter, based in Austin, wants to know why the National Park Service has cut the program run by Dr. Donna Shaver, a sea turtle biologist whose Student Conservation Association intern stint at Padre Island in 1980 launched a career that took her from the Park Service to former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s short-lived National Biological Survey and back to the Park Service at Padre Island in 2003.

In 2020 in a 51-page report that reviewed the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program, or STSR, the National Park Service said the program had gotten unwieldly and too costly at roughly $1.9 million per year. Within 3-5 years, the review added without any detail, the program would be unsustainable. As a result, it should be tightly reined in, the report recommended.

The program, the review implied, suffered from mission creep while the national seashore’s other natural resource programs suffered with an annual $248,670 budget, combined.

The Sierra Club chapter, with 20,000 members, is behind a petition to be sent to Shannon Estenoz, the assistant Interior Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, asking that she meet with club leaders to explain what’s going on with the program.

Craig Nazor, chair of the chapter, says he wants to be able to tell Estenoz the problems that they see with the program. Those problems, he told a Corpus Christi television station, range from reductions in the number of public turtle hatchling releases to funds that were earmarked for the turtle program being diverted elsewhere.

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