Gopher Tortoise Recipient Sites
Private and public landowners play a key role in conserving and restoring gopher tortoise habitat by receiving permits designating their lands as gopher tortoise recipient sites.
Frequently Asked Questions
Recipient sites are privately or publicly owned lands of 25 acres or more permitted to accept gopher tortoises needing relocation out of harm’s way from development.
Recipient sites help to restore and maintain gopher tortoise populations throughout the species’ range in Florida by:
- Preventing loss of tortoises on development sites
- Maintaining local or regional tortoise populations
- Preserving habitat for gopher tortoises and the many species that depend on their burrows
- Restocking tortoises to managed lands with reduced populations
- Assisting research efforts
- Recipient site permittees set the price for accepting tortoises from donor site landowners.
- There is a high demand to relocate gopher tortoises to recipient sites due to the ongoing development across Florida.
- There is no longer an application mitigation fee for a recipient site permit.
- The FWC now conducts tortoise population monitoring on behalf of the permittee in approved circumstances.
- You must apply for and receive a FWC recipient site permit to establish a recipient site. Before applying, contact the Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator to schedule a pre-application consultation and site visit to determine if your property is eligible. Properties must be a minimum of 25 acres.
- Private landowners are encouraged to seek assistance from the Landowner Assistance Program (LAP) if additional habitat management is needed for eligibility.
- Local governments can apply for Habitat Management Assistance Funding to meet habitat quality permitting requirements for recipient site permits.
First, contact the Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator to schedule a pre-application consultation. A pre-application consultation, including a site visit, streamlines the permitting process and is highly recommended before beginning a recipient site permit application. The consultation allows FWC staff to evaluate lands for gopher tortoise habitat needs and helps landowners prepare an application package. 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, apply for a recipient site permit online. There is no application fee. A gopher tortoise plan must be submitted along with data collected by an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent. Additional permit requirements vary by recipient permit type. Full details can be found in the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines.
There are a variety of recipient permit types available for both public and private lands. Please reach out to the FWC Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator to find the option that best suits you and your land. Recipient permit options differ in requirements, including land size, monitoring commitment, and enforceable protection. Public lands are eligible for all recipient site permit types. Private lands are eligible for all recipient permit types except public lands restocking site permits and contiguous public conservation land permits.
Recipient site tiers were added in the 2023 Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines Revision to incentivize the permitted relocation of gopher tortoises to areas with higher conservation value for tortoises.
The number of tortoises authorized for release at a recipient site varies depending on the site’s characteristics. Sites with desirable conditions for tortoises may qualify to receive more tortoises per acre through stocking bonuses. Most recipient site permit types authorize a maximum of two tortoises an acre if all stocking bonus criteria are met. However, long-term recipient site permits and research recipient site permits may authorize up to four tortoises an acre if all stocking bonus criteria are met. Stocking bonuses do not apply to unprotected recipient site permits and short-term recipient site permits.
After passing a health assessment and having shells individually marked by an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent, tortoises are released first into a soft release enclosure, such as a silt fence pen. This soft release area is important because it encourages tortoises to settle into their new habitat. Soft release enclosures must be maintained. Releases must be carefully planned around the forecasted temperature to reduce the chance of temperature-related stress or deaths. A full list of release requirements and recommendations is available in the Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines.