Gopher Tortoise Success Stories

Suwannee Habitat Saved

The Suwannee River Water Management District was about to trade a tract of longleaf pine sandhill habitat with one of the largest populations of gopher tortoises in north Florida to a company that would convert the area to peanut farming, in exchange for riverfront property.  We worked with Audubon of Florida and Florida Wildlife Federation, as well as agencies and landowners, to prevent this trade from happening, and in early 2013 we were able to save the both the sandhill public lands and complete the river corridor along this segment of the Suwannee.

Technical Advisory Committee

As a member of the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Gopher Tortoise Technical Advisory Committee, Defenders helped write the state Gopher Tortoise Management Plan and implementing Guidelines in 2008, and revise them again in 2013.  This document presents the strategic actions necessary to protect the gopher tortoise and stop the decline in population and habitat.

Payment Practice Ended

In the past, instead of protecting or relocating tortoises on development projects, developers could simply pay the state of Florida a penalty. This practice led to the entombing of thousands of animals. Defenders was an active partner in advocating for an end to this state-sanctioned practice, and in 2007 it was successfully brought to a close.