Fed Ruling Supports Success of Gopher Tortoise Protections

While state regulations that protect the gopher tortoise remain in place, a recent ruling by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) finds that the eastern population of the species does not currently warrant consideration for federal-level protections.

Remaining in place are present Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulations that designate the gopher tortoise as threatened and mandate the continued application of present environmental processes for gopher tortoise protection required to clear sites for work, which affect a range of projects for developers, municipalities, state DOTs, and others.

GAI Environmental Manager DJ Silverberg, Sr. PWS, GTA is an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent, permitted by the FWC to address the safety and well-being of gopher tortoises during responsible relocations and to see that all state policies, guidelines, and rules are followed during all permitted relocation activities. “It’s my professional opinion that the efforts of the FWC, the regulated public, and environmental professionals like myself are having a positive effect on the long-term survival of the species, and that continued attentiveness and improvements to the program when the need is identified are crucial to promote the long-term viability of gopher tortoise populations throughout their range,” said Silverberg.

gopher tortoise

Silverberg is among GAI staff dedicated to facilitating project work by helping clients comply with requirements regarding the treatment of the gopher tortoise, including the Florida state regulations currently in effect. GAI environmental services available to help protect various species such as the gopher tortoise include surveying for the presence of gopher tortoises, preparation of permit applications and required supporting documentation, in-field excavation, live capture, tortoise relocation, and more.

As stated in the FWS finding, “[W]e conclude that the previously recognized threats to the eastern portion of the gopher tortoise range … are not impacting the species such that the species is in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.”

“It’s notable is that the new federal ruling also establishes division of the gopher tortoise’s range into distinct eastern and western populations, and that the western population remains under federal protections,” said Silverberg. “This strongly suggests that the guidelines the state has in place to protect the portion of the eastern gopher tortoise population here in Florida have been making headway in fostering the population’s long-term robustness, and that continued regulatory protection may serve to maintain populations and negate the need for future federal-level protections.”

The views expressed are those of the contributors identified and do not necessarily represent the position of GAI Consultants, Inc.

Contact GAI Environmental Manager DJ Silverberg, Sr. PWS, GTA, 321.319.3077, for more information about GAI environmental services that help conserve wildlife and the environment while being sensitive to project need. Message GAI online and start the conversation about how our multidiscipline professionals can meet your unique project needs.

DJ SilverbergDJ Silverberg, Sr. PWS, GTA is a Professional Wetland Scientist who has conducted ecological consulting studies since 1987. He performs preliminary land use assessments, wetland delineations, and listed species evaluations for sites throughout Florida, as well as wetland jurisdictional delineations for local, state, and federal regulatory programs.


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