FWC seeks public input on gopher tortoise conservation
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Media contact: Diane Hirth, 850-410-5291
Four years after adopting Florida's first Gopher Tortoise
Management Plan, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) is asking the public to share its thoughts on
improving conservation of the gopher tortoise, a state threatened
species. The plan will be updated in 2012.
Florida has accomplished much for gopher tortoises in the past
four years, including exceeding the 10,000-acres-per-year goal of
restoring and managing gopher tortoise habitat. An annual average
of 36,000 acres of gopher tortoise habitat is being restored and
managed in Florida under the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan.
Gopher tortoises' protected habitat also grew by more than 6,500
acres under the plan, with 14 of the 21 expansion sites occurring
on private lands.
Additionally, more than 4,000 gopher tortoises were humanely
relocated from sites slated for development. The plan's redesigned
permitting system and identification of sites that will accept
relocated tortoises played key roles in this process.
Loss of habitat is the main threat to the gopher tortoise's
Citizens with suggestions on revising the Gopher Tortoise
Management Plan can review the plan and submit their ideas online
at http://share.myfwc.com/GT2/Lists/Input on
Revisions to the GT Mgmt Plan. Public input will be accepted
through Nov. 28.
"The current Gopher Tortoise Management Plan, developed and
implemented in partnership with many stakeholders, guided us well
in achieving measurable progress in conserving the gopher tortoise
in Florida," said Dr. Elsa Haubold, leader of the FWC's Species
Conservation Planning section.
Conserving the gopher tortoise is essential not only to the
tortoise, which lives for up to 60 years, but to 350 other Florida
species such as the indigo snake and burrowing owl, which share and
shelter in the tortoise's extensive burrows. Adept at earth-moving,
the tortoise digs out burrows averaging 15 feet long and 6.5 feet
deep in well-drained, sandy areas such as longleaf pine forests,
oak sandhills and coastal dunes. Under state law, the gopher
tortoise, its eggs and its burrows are protected.
"We are grateful to private landowners, public agencies at the
local, state and federal level, and other stakeholders for their
partnership in conserving gopher tortoises and restoring their
habitat," Haubold said. "By being adaptive and building on what we
have learned and achieved during the first four years of
implementation, we can revise the plan so Florida is more efficient
and effective at gopher tortoise conservation. We look forward to
public input to help us in this revision of the Gopher Tortoise
Another 62 wildlife species soon will join the list of Florida
species like the gopher tortoise and bald eagle that are already
under FWC management plans. Florida's new threatened species
conservation model requires that management plans be created for
all state-listed species and updated at specified intervals. As FWC
staff begins the scheduled revision of the Gopher Tortoise
Management Plan, work is under way to develop plans for the 62
currently listed species that do not yet have approved plans.
The Gopher Tortoise Management Plan and the other anticipated
species management plans give the public an open, transparent
perspective on Florida's efforts to conserve its diverse wildlife
for future generations against the backdrop of a growing state with
nearly 19 million people.
For more information on the gopher tortoise, please visit MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise.