An endangered  loggerhead sea turtle

A loggerhead sea turtle off the Florida coast. (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press / November 21, 2006)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has two months to identify suitable in-water nesting and migratory habitat for endangered loggerhead sea turtles, according to a legal settlement filed this week.

The agreement — between the wildlife service and the groups Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Oceana — gives the government until July 1 to propose feeding, breeding and migratory habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

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The final critical habitat protections must be in place by July 1, 2014, according to the settlement filed Thursday in U.S. district court.

The Fish and Wildlife Service in March proposed protecting more than 739 miles of critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles on their nesting beaches from North Carolina to Mississippi, about 84% of the turtle’s known nesting areas.