Leatherbacks win critical habitat

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The endangered leatherback sea turtle enjoyed a huge conservation victory this week.

The hulking, jellyfish-eating reptile will be protected in ocean waters off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington due to a settlement filed by the National Marine Fisheries Service and conservation groups.

The current settlement proposes protecting 70,600 square miles of critical habitat, but the government has until November 15, 2011 to make a final rule.

The settlement marks a major turning point in a many-year effort by conservation groups to protect the embattled turtle, which travels some 6,000 miles from the western Pacific to the cool waters along the Western United States each summer and fall to feed on scores of jellyfish.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity,