FWC boosts flexibility to relocate gopher tortoises to public conservation lands
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Media contact: Diane Hirth, 850-251-2130
(Back to Commission meeting
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
"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
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.
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.
For more information on the gopher tortoise, please visit