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Disturbed Sites

Landowners are required to obtain a permit to relocate gopher tortoises prior to commencing land clearing and development activities that fall within 25 feet of a potentially occupied gopher tortoise burrow. In cases where premature disturbance to the vegetation or ground has occurred before gopher tortoise burrow surveys are complete or before gopher tortoise capture and relocation activities have been completed, a disturbed site permit may be required. This permit provides an option for mitigation and relocation of tortoises within disturbed portions of the project area.

Refer to the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines for more information.   

Juvenile tortoise sitting on freshly burned ground

Requirements for Disturbed Site Permits

For a disturbed site permit to be issued, the following four criteria must be met:

  1. Evidence of site disturbance to the ground or vegetation must be present on the site within suitable gopher tortoise habitat.
  2. Site disturbance prevents either complete and accurate tortoise burrow surveys from being conducted, or FWC staff from conducting on-site inspections to verify survey results prior to disturbance commencing.
  3. Impacts have occurred within any part of the project area with documentation of tortoise burrows; or evidence of tortoise burrows is visible within the disturbed area, on the property where disturbance occurred or within close proximity on adjacent properties; or evidence of impact to any tortoise or tortoise burrow.
  4. Disturbance has occurred on the site within the past 18 months.

These criteria may be met before a gopher tortoise permit application has been submitted, during the review of an application, or after a relocation permit has been issued, depending on when disturbance activities occur. An active relocation permit may be revoked, or a pending permit application may be denied if these criteria are met, so that a Disturbed Site permit application may be submitted.

Burrow Surveys

People walking transects in woods looking for burrows and holding GPS units

Disturbed sites require different burrow survey protocols, as it is necessary to estimate both the numbers of tortoises within the disturbed area and (if applicable) the number of tortoises outside the disturbed area which are still within the boundaries of the project site to calculate mitigation contributions.  Once site disturbances within the project area cease, a minimum 28-day waiting period without further site disturbance is required before tortoise burrow surveys are conducted within disturbed areas. This waiting period may be longer depending on temperature and season.

Migitation Contributions

Mitigation contributions for disturbed site permits are higher than for other relocation permits to mitigate for tortoises which may be buried underground or have left the project site in response to disturbance activities and cannot be relocated. Disturbed site mitigation is also increased for non-single-family property owners.

The Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines provide additional detail on the requirements to obtain this permit. 

Applying for a Disturbed Site Permit

Please note that survey, capture and relocation activities under a disturbed site permit must be conducted by an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent. Additionally, the disturbed site permit is not punitive but will not be issued until any associated FWC law enforcement investigations and legal proceedings have been completed.

To apply online for a Disturbed Site Conservation or Disturbed Site 10 or Fewer Burrows permit, please visit the FWC online permit system

To apply for a Disturbed Site Temporary Exclusion Permit, download and complete the paper-based permit application.

Refer to the disturbed site permit application checklist for a list of items that will be needed to complete the online application process. Complete applications should be submitted at least 90 days prior to the time needed, although most applications will be processed in 45 days or less. Timely issuance of permits is dependent on receiving all of the required documentation and mitigation.

More Information

If you have questions on gopher tortoise permitting please contact the gopher tortoise conservation biologist in your region.

Please email to request disability accommodations for the application process.