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FWC seeks landowners to help with gopher tortoise conservation

Media Release
September 23, 2021

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is seeking landowners to help with gopher tortoise conservation efforts as part of the agency’s Gopher Tortoise Recipient Site Program. The program benefits landowners and tortoises and is compatible with other land uses, such as hunting and wetland mitigation.

The Gopher Tortoise Recipient Site Program provides landowners with an opportunity to generate additional revenue from their lands, as the landowner may charge a market-based fee for each tortoise received at the site.

There has never been a better time for landowners to participate in the recipient site program. The price landowners can charge per tortoise received at an approved site is not set by the FWC, so the landowner can adjust the fee based on their needs. Based on the current market for gopher tortoise recipient sites, landowners can generate more revenue from this program than ever before while contributing to the conservation of the species.

The program offers a variety of conservation benefits to gopher tortoises. Tortoises benefit by being moved out of harm’s way when relocated from development sites to the safety of FWC-permitted recipient sites. Recipient sites minimize the loss of tortoises, preserve habitat, restock depleted populations and promote genetic diversity of the species. Managing properties and habitat for the gopher tortoise has a conservation benefit for more than 350 other species that have been documented using gopher tortoise burrows. Many of these species are also state or federally listed.

“Landowners play a significant role in conserving gopher tortoise habitat throughout Florida,” said Alex Kalfin, program planning and monitoring administrator for the FWC’s Wildlife Diversity Conservation Section. “We are hoping we can get more property owners enrolled in this program, which is not only a critical component of gopher tortoise conservation in Florida but also provides substantial benefits for landowners.”

FWC staff will assist property owners whose lands meet the recipient site criteria throughout the application process. They will also help landowners make improvements to their land to improve quality habitat for gopher tortoises and other wildlife.

The gopher tortoise is a protected species that occurs in all 67 Florida counties. The tortoise is known as a keystone species and its burrows serve as important refuges for 350 native species including threatened species including the Eastern indigo snake, the burrowing owl and the gopher frog.

To learn more about gopher tortoises, the recipient program and how to apply, visit MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise.

Through the FWC Landowner Assistance Program, biologists provide technical assistance to private landowners, helping them develop management plans for their property that maximize benefits to wildlife and people. They can also assist with finding financial assistance to complete important habitat restoration projects on private lands. To learn more about this program visit MyFWC.com/LAP or call your FWC Regional Office and ask to speak to a LAP biologist.

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