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Gopher Tortoise Permitting and Relocation Experience

TRC is a leader in gopher tortoise habitat reviews, surveys, and development of recipient sites.

TRC is a leader in gopher tortoise habitat reviews, surveys, and development of recipient sites. The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is a listed species whose range extends throughout all of Florida and parts of Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It is protected under state law as a threatened species throughout most of its range and is federally threatened west of Mobile Bay. The gopher tortoise is considered a keystone species because their burrows provide shelter for over 350 other species, including several other listed species. A relocation permit is required if any land disturbing activities, other than exempt activities such as agriculture and silviculture, are proposed within 25 feet of a gopher tortoise burrow.

TRC performs the following technical tasks:

  • Field Surveys – A burrow survey covering a minimum of 15% of the potential gopher tortoise habitat to be impacted by development activities is required in order to apply for a relocation permit.
  • Relocation Permitting Documentation and Tortoise Relocation – Once the relocation permit has been issued and local government approval has been attained, capture and relocation activities may commence. The capture and relocation should occur no more than 90 days before the start of construction activities and should be conducted by an authorized gopher tortoise agent in accordance with all permit conditions. Following capture, gopher tortoises can be relocated on-site (if remaining habitat meets qualification criteria) or to a permitted recipient site.
  • Permitting support for Recipient Sites – TRC actively supports site developers to locate, develop management plans and locate gopher tortoise recipient sites where tortoise habitat is enhanced to provide protected, managed conditions for continued survival of the species.

TRC’s staff have conducted many gopher tortoise surveys throughout its entire range, and they have excavated and relocated hundreds of gopher tortoise burrows throughout Florida and Georgia. Following a recent decline in gopher tortoise recipient sites, authorized gopher tortoise agents with TRC have worked with landowners to permit and develop new gopher tortoise recipient sites. This includes conducting baseline population and vegetation assessments, obtaining recipient site permits, monitoring the recipient site and advising the landowner on habitat management to provide preferable habitat for the gopher tortoise through prescribed burning, mowing, roller chopping and invasive species removal. This work is helping to ensure the survival of gopher tortoises and support for the many commensal and dependent species associated with the gopher tortoise.

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