For Immediate Release, November 19, 2021
Contact: Elise Bennett, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 755-6950, email@example.com
George Heinrich, Florida Turtle Conservation Trust, (727) 599-1843, firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida Order Weakens Protections for Imperiled Gopher Tortoise
Gopher Tortoise at Greater Risk From Widespread Urban Sprawl
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has issued an executive order that weakens protections for
tortoises displaced from development sites around the state and authorizes indefinite “temporary relocation” measures. The order comes as
uncontrolled urban sprawl has caused a shortage of relocation sites for the rare and beloved tortoise.
“Gopher tortoises are caught in a habitat loss crisis, yet the commission is suggesting what amounts to a temporary storage solution,” said Elise
Bennett, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This move is deeply disappointing and dangerous to these imperiled animals,
but it’s also no surprise. For years the state has enabled sprawl development by simply moving tortoises out of the way. Now there’s nowhere left
to put them.”
The order, issued by commission executive director Eric Sutton, broadly waives a rule that prohibits the relocation of tortoises more than 100
miles north or south of a given development site. The “100-mile rule” exists to ensure tortoise populations are relocated to areas that support
long-term population viability and genetic integrity.
Because urban sprawl in peninsular Florida is consuming much of the tortoise’s remaining habitat, waiver of the 100-mile rule will likely direct
tortoises from the species’ core range to peripheral areas in the Florida panhandle, where populations may struggle to survive.
"We are shocked by the recent executive order, which diminishes the conservation outlook for tortoises,” said George L. Heinrich, executive
director of the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust. “We have long urged the commission to