FWC creates new EO to help gopher tortoise population


Photo Credit: Randy Browning, USFWS

Victoria Foster

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has recently issued Executive Order 21-27 (EO) in order to help with the increase in territory demand for the federally endangered Gopher Tortoise. 

According to the FWC, there has been an increase in permits for development sites. “Nearly 3,000 gopher tortoise relocation permits have been issued in 2021 alone,” the FWC said, “representing about 20% of all permits issued since 2018.”

Since gopher tortoise site managers were unable to keep up with the sudden increase, the FWC developed EO 21-27, which focuses on Gopher Tortoise Recipient Site Capacity. The EO will allow tortoises to be moved 100 miles north or south from their original location and lower relocation fees.

The EO is a temporary plan set to be active for 90 days as of November 18th, 2021. The FWC says that all decisions under the EO will be temporary changes until further notice. 

The Gopher Tortoise has been fully protected by Florida since 1988. The Gopher Tortoise Management Plan was originally put into effect in September 2007, and was then revised and approved on September 5, 2012.

The FWC states that the plan has four objectives to complete until the tortoise is no longer required to be on the Florida endangered listing. These objectives are to “minimize the loss of gopher tortoises, increase and improve gopher tortoise habitat, enhance and restore gopher tortoise populations, and maintain the gopher tortoise’s function as a keystone species.” 

It should be noted that a permit is still required to participate in any of these changes, and the EO has not placed any blanket authorization nor waived any existing rules. Activity involving the gopher tortoise or their burrows may be seen as a violation of state law. 

To find out how you can support the FWC and the Gopher Tortoise Program, click here to learn more.