The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved revisions to its gopher tortoise permitting guidelines Wednesday during its meeting in St. Augustine.
The FWC approved a management plan for gopher tortoises in September 2007, providing conservation measures to ensure that gopher tortoises thrive in Florida. The plan calls for permitting guidelines that make certain that Florida meets the tortoise’s habitat needs now and in the future. Initially approved in 2008, the guidelines are revised as the FWC learns more about the needs of gopher tortoises and receives input from the public.
The revisions approved Wednesday reflect input from meetings with stakeholders during the past year.
The revised guidelines include reduced monitoring requirements for landowners who receive relocated tortoises and a modified conservation permit to include an on-site relocation option for public projects (e.g., roads, public schools or governmental facilities) that occur on or next to public conservation lands. Both revisions help reduce landowner costs incurred in relocating gopher tortoises.
“The Gopher Tortoise Technical Assistance Group and FWC staff have worked together since 2006 to build and refine the FWC’s landmark gopher tortoise management plan,” said Deborah Burr, Gopher Tortoise Management Plan coordinator. “Working closely with our stakeholders, we are always improving the permitting process so we have the best possible plan to ensure a place for gopher tortoises in Florida now and in the future.”
“I encourage staff to think outside the box,” said Commission Chairman Kathy Barco. “Continue to look for new ways to make the permitting process more efficient and equitable for all landowners.”
For more information about the management plan, go to MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise.
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