Resolution - Gopher Tortoise

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WHEREAS, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is responsible for conserving and protecting all fish and wildlife within the state, and

WHEREAS, gopher tortoises are ecologically important as a keystone species of upland habitats, providing habitat and refuge in their burrows for more than 300 commensal species, and
Whereas, the gopher tortoise has been a regulated wildlife species in Florida since 1975, and

WHEREAS, gopher tortoises were in need of conservation intervention to halt the decline in their population, and

WHEREAS, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission developed and implemented a conservation blueprint for gopher tortoises, which includes revised regulatory prohibitions, the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan, and the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines, among other things, to secure the species' future as part of Florida's fauna in perpetuity, and

WHEREAS, this conservation blueprint was developed in partnership with a diverse group of stakeholders (primary industry; conservation organizations; land development; local government agencies; research and academics; commercial services; private landowners; military, federal and state land managers; animal welfare; and general public) over a two year period, and

WHEREAS, this conservation blueprint sets specific measurable conservation objectives to achieve Florida's goal for gopher tortoises which is to restore and maintain secure, viable populations throughout the species' current range in Florida, and

WHEREAS, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its partners have been actively implementing the conservation blueprint since it was approved in 2007, and

WHEREAS, significant progress has been made toward implementing the conservation blueprint:  Approximately 18,000 additional acres of land have been conserved and are currently being managed for gopher tortoises; an average of 36,000 acres of gopher tortoise habitat per year have been restored with 50,000 acres restored during 2010 through expanded partnerships; and gopher tortoise mortality has been decreased with more than 5,000 gopher tortoises moved from development sites to protected and managed lands, and

WHEREAS, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition requesting that they designate the gopher tortoise in the eastern portion of its range as threatened under the United States Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1531, et seq., and is now considering whether such a listing is warranted, and

WHEREAS, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provided specific scientific and commercial data solicited by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to help with its assessment; and that data demonstrates that Florida has provided significant conservation of the gopher tortoise specifically as it relates to the five factors that are the basis for making a listing determination under the United States Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1531, et seq., and

WHEREAS, protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1531, et seq., cannot provide any additional conservation values for gopher tortoises in Florida beyond those which are already in place through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's conservation blueprint for the gopher tortoise, and

WHEREAS, the nation and Florida have experienced significant negative effects of an economic downturn, and it is likely that the onerous regulatory burden of the United States Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1531, et seq., would negatively affect economic recovery and job growth in Florida, and

WHEREAS, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is one of the most important partners of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in conserving imperiled fish and wildlife, and this partnership has previously resulted in successful conservation of species in Florida.

NOW THEREFORE, be it resolved, that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission strongly urges the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to acknowledge the strong conservation measures and considerable action taken by Florida to protect and conserve gopher tortoises in the state and conclude that listing is not warranted in Florida.

DONE AND RESOLVED, in this duly constituted and assembled meeting at Apalachicola, Florida, this 24th day of February, 2011. 

FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION

[signed by:]

Rodney Barreto, Chairman
Kathy Barco, Commissioner 
Dwight Stephenson, Commissioner
Brian Yablonski, Commissioner 

Richard A. Corbett, Vice Chairman
Ronald Bergeron, Commissioner
Kenneth Wright, Commissioner



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