FWC: Flexibility to Relocate Gopher Tortoises to Public Conservation Lands

By: FWC Release
By: FWC Release
More flexibility in relocating gopher tortoises may lead to more of the threatened, long-lived tortoises being moved from areas about to be developed onto public conservation lands.

Gopher? No., it’s a gopher tortoise, named so because it inhabits burrows, similar to the Southeastern pocket gopher, a mammal of the rodent clan. This is but one example of just how confusing colloquial uses of common wildlife names can be.

People with suggestions on revising the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan can review it and submit their ideas online at http://share.myfwc.com/GT2/Lists/Input on Revisions to the GT Mgmt Plan. Public input will be accepted through Nov. 28.

For more information on the gopher tortoise, please visit MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise.

Tallahassee, Florida - November 17, 2011 -

More flexibility in relocating gopher tortoises may lead to more of the threatened, long-lived tortoises being moved from areas about to be developed onto public conservation lands, so the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Nov. 17 approved revisions to gopher tortoise permitting guidelines to enable that.

“Today’s approved revisions are part of the FWC’s adaptive management strategy that balances the most effective gopher tortoise conservation with the needs of Floridians,” said Deborah Burr, Gopher Tortoise Management Plan Coordinator.

The revisions to the permitting guidelines are also designed to achieve the conservation objectives for the management plan. One objective addresses decreasing gopher tortoise deaths on lands proposed for development through responsible relocation of the tortoises. Another objective calls for repopulating gopher tortoises on public conservation lands where they no longer occur or where densities are low.

The revisions streamline the process for the Disturbed Site permit. This permit authorizes the relocation of gopher tortoises after sites have been prematurely cleared and before tortoises have been relocated.

The FWC approved its first management plan for gopher tortoises in September 2007, providing conservation measures to ensure gopher tortoises thrive in Florida. The plan also calls for permitting guidelines that enable Florida to meet the tortoise’s habitat needs now and in the future. Initially approved in 2008, the guidelines are revised as the FWC learns more about balancing the needs of gopher tortoises and people. The current revisions came after meetings with stakeholders during the past year. The input received was incorporated into the revisions approved by the Commission.

Four years after adopting its first Gopher Tortoise Management Plan, the FWC is also asking the public to share its thoughts on improving conservation of the gopher tortoise. Loss of habitat is the main threat to the gopher tortoise’s survival, and that plan will be updated in 2012.

Florida has accomplished much for gopher tortoises in the past four years, including the humane relocation of more than 4,000 gopher tortoises from sites slated for development. Conserving the gopher tortoise is essential not only to the tortoise, which lives for up to 60 years, but to 350 other Florida species, such as the indigo snake and burrowing owl, which share and shelter in the tortoise’s extensive burrows.

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