Gopher Tortoise Enforcement Policy
Agricultural, Silvicultural and Wildlife Management Activities
This policy is for the purpose of enforcement of Chapter 68A-27 relating to Gopher tortoises with respect to agricultural and silvicultural activities or activities intended to improve native wildlife habitat. The adoption of the Gopher Tortoise Burrow rule does not expand pre-existing gopher tortoise regulatory prohibitions or change existing policy or practice with respect to agricultural and silvicultural activities.
An illegal take of a gopher tortoise burrow includes, but is not limited to: damaging, collapsing or covering a gopher tortoise burrow from land-clearing, bulldozing, grading, paving, or building construction associated with land development, without a permit issued under Chapter 68A, Florida Administrative Code.
Gopher tortoise or gopher tortoise burrow permits are not required to conduct agricultural activities, silvicultural activities, or activities intended to improve native wildlife habitat. Such activities include, but are not limited to: tilling, planting, mowing, harvesting, prescribed burning, mowing, disking, roller-chopping and tree-cutting.
The prohibitions related to gopher tortoise burrows will not be applied when a landowner can demonstrate that those burrows are no longer used by gopher tortoises by conducting a gopher tortoise survey in accordance with FWC guidelines.
As stated in Chapter 68A-27 "gopher tortoise burrow" is defined as a tunnel in the ground with a cross-section that closely approximates the shape of a gopher tortoise.
Solely for the purpose of this policy, the presence of one or more of the following characteristics indicates that gopher tortoises or gopher tortoise burrows may be present:
- Ground surrounding a burrow entrance shows evidence of gopher tortoise activity including but not limited to presence of a gopher tortoise; gopher tortoise eggs or egg shell fragments; impressions from the bottom shell of the tortoise; foot-prints or tracks left by tortoises; scat; obvious feeding trails radiating out and extending into surrounding vegetation);
- Sand mound from the burrow excavation apparent at the burrow entrance;
- Located in well-drained to moderately well-drained, sandy soils;
- Located in sandhill, scrub, coastal dunes, flatwoods, dry prairie, dry hammock communities, or any disturbed version of these plant communities (such as, but not limited to, pastures, old fields, yards, power line corridors, roadsides);
- Other burrows with the shape defined above, and with one or more of the characteristics described in (a)-(d) above, located on the site or in proximity on adjacent property.
This policy will remain in effect until replaced with policy or rule.