Recipient sites are privately or publicly owned lands onto which tortoises that are displaced by development will be relocated under a permitting system created under the management plan. The objective of the recipient site program is to provide the highest level of long-term security for the gopher tortoise and its habitat on permitted recipient sites. Permitted recipient sites help to prevent the loss of tortoises on development sites, help retain the local or regional tortoise resource, and can contribute to habitat preservation if sites receive long-term protection.
Private landowners can play a key role in helping conserve and restore gopher tortoise habitat and several elements of the plan are of direct interest to private landowners. One exciting element is the opportunity for landowners to have their land certified as a gopher tortoise recipient site. Landowners that have their properties certified as recipient sites may receive financial compensation from the donor site owner (such as a developer). This financial compensation can offset any upfront costs associated with becoming a certified recipient site.
Recipient sites will require active management to ensure that habitat continues to remain suitable for the gopher tortoise. (Refer to Appendix 3 of the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines for habitat management plan requirements.) To assist with this management, FWC provides landowner assistance programs for appropriate privately owned uplands for gopher tortoise conservation. Technical and financial assistance is available for several habitat management activities (e.g., prescribed burning, vegetation management).
Long-Term Protected Recipient Site permit
Long-term protected recipient sites may qualify to receive up to 4 gopher tortoises per acre depending on site characteristics (for specifics visit Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines).
To receive certification as a long-term protected recipient site, candidate properties must:
- contain a minimum of 40 acres of contiguous suitable uplands;
- contain soils that provide ample depth for tortoise burrows (depth to seasonal high water table value of 18 inches or greater);
- provide a plentiful food source (average herbaceous cover of at least 30%);
- have a sparse or open tree canopy to allow sunlight to reach the gopher tortoises since they do not create their own body heat (average canopy cover of 60% or less), and;
- be protected by a conservation easement acceptable to FWC. For a draft conservation easement form please refer to Draft Conservation Easement.
Short-Term or Unprotected Recipient Site permit
Short-term or unprotected recipient sites may qualify to receive up to 2 gopher tortoises per acre depending on site characteristics (for specifics visit Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines).
To receive certification as a short-term or unprotected recipient site, candidate properties must:
- contain a minimum of 25 acres of contiguous suitable uplands, and;
- contain soils that provide minimal depth for tortoise burrows (depth to seasonal high water table value of 18 inches or greater), and;
- have a sparse or open tree canopy (average canopy cover of 60% or less).
Apply for a Recipient Site permit
If you are interested in applying to have your land certified as a gopher tortoise recipient site, contact the Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator to initiate a pre-application consultation. A pre-application consultation, including a site visit, will streamline the permitting process and is highly recommended before beginning a recipient site permit, because it allows FWC staff to evaluate habitat suitability, create survey designs, and address potential land use compatibility issues in advance. You may be asked to withdraw your recipient site permit application if you choose to decline a pre-application consultation.
Upon completion of the pre-application consultation, you can apply online at the FWC gopher tortoise online permitting site. A user name and password is required. A paper-based application for long-term protected and short-term or unprotected recipient sites is also available, but online application submission is preferred to help expedite a more timely review process.
Authorized Agent and Recipient Site locator
If you are looking for authorized gopher tortoise agent or a recipient site location and contact information, please access our online locator map.
The permitting guidelines that include the full description on gopher tortoise recipient sites are available for download on this website.
If you have questions on gopher tortoise permitting please contact the gopher tortoise conservation biologist in your region.
Gopher tortoise conservation depends on participation of public and private lands.