Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines Revisions
On November 30, 2022, the FWC Commissioners approved revisions to the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines. The guidelines are incorporated by reference in Rule 68A-27.003, Florida Administrative Code.
IMPORTANT DATES FOR REVISED RULE
Effective date for revised guidelines: April 30, 2023
Applications for FWC gopher tortoise relocation permits, recipient site permits, or Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agents Permits and permit amendments that were initially submitted in the FWC online permit system by the end of the April 30, 2023, calendar day or received in paper form by the FWC Gopher Tortoise Program on or before April 30, 2023, but remain incomplete after that specified date; or, submitted in the online permit system or received by the FWC in paper form after April 30, 2023 will be reviewed and processed by the FWC in accordance with the requirements of the revised Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines (April 2008 – revisions effective April 2023).
Applications submitted in the FWC online permit system by the end of the April 30, 2023, calendar day or received in paper form by the Gopher Tortoise Program on April 30, 2023 that contain all the required information for completeness and sufficiency, without need for additional information, will be reviewed and evaluated in accordance with the requirements of the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines (April 2008 – revised July 2020).
What changed in the 2023 Guidelines Revisions?
To better protect gopher tortoises during permitted activities, the guidelines revisions:
- Adjust mitigation contributions to incentivize relocation to protected areas.
- Facilitate regulatory enforcement by defining roles and responsibilities.
- Clarify other provisions.
Notable changes include:
- An Executive Summary section has been added to clarify roles and responsibilities of permittees, agents and agents’ assistants.
- Named Agent is now clarified on permits and in the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines for roles and responsibilities.
- Disturbed Site Mitigation has been increased for non-single-family property owners.
- Short-term and long-term recipient sites now have a tiered system to encourage additional protections on recipient sites and lower the costs of permit mitigation.
- It was clarified that 25% of agents’ experience requirements must be from actions conducted within the past four years from the date of Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent Permit application submittal.
- Short-term Protected Recipient Sites’ enforceable protection was defined.
- FWC recipient site conservation easements require a title commitment instead of a title search.
- The Temporary Exclusion Permit has expanded to include other forms of temporary linear projects.
- Changes were made to the Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent Permit application, such as separating the mark and release duties.
- No-cost e-Learning requirements for training on transport, holding, handling and release of gopher tortoises for new authorized agent applications and renewal amendments were added.
- Hatchlings shall no longer be marked. This means no tortoises under 61 mm are authorized for marking in any method.
- Temporary exclusion recipient areas must have a 100% survey if the recipient area is less than 1 acre in size.
Please see the revised Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines for a full list of changes.
If you have questions regarding the new revisions or implementation of the revised guidelines or any issues with the FWC online permit system, please contact the Gopher Tortoise Program at GTPermits@MyFWC.com, by phone at (850) 921-1031 or by contacting your regional Gopher Tortoise Conservation Biologist.