Gopher Tortoise Denied Endangered Species Protection, Advocates Furious

by Megan Molseed
(Getty Images/ passion4nature)

Advocates have been pressing for the addition of the gopher tortoise to the Endangered Species Protection list. However, these efforts are remaining largely unrecognized as it was announced recently that these wild animals have been denied endangered species protection. According to the advocates, the gopher tortoise is being threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation all around the southeast area of the United States.

Advocates Note That Urban Sprawl Will Continue To Drive The Gopher Tortoise Closer To Extinction

The announcement comes following a petition and a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity. The U.S. Fish and wildlife service has stated that the gopher tortoise has been denied protections that come from being placed on the Endangered Species list.

Elise Bennet the Florida director and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity notes that the gopher tortoises need protection to survive. Denying these animals, which are found largely in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and much of Alabama is “indefensible” Bennett says.

“Denying gopher tortoises the protection they need to survive is indefensible,” she explains.

“It ignores devastating urban sprawl that’s decimated the tortoise’s habitat,” Bennet continues. “And will continue to drive the species ever closer to extinction.”

The Gopher Tortoise Populations Are Expected To Dwindle Over The Next 80 Years

The decision was reached recently despite reports that there are projected wide-range population declines of this animal for the next eight decades. The greatest change in the gopher tortoise population is projected to take place in Florida. As well as the westernmost areas of its regular habitat.

“This denial is a blow to the gopher tortoise,” Bennett says in response to the update.

“And all the people who care deeply about this humble creature’s future,” she adds. However, Bennett notes, she and the other advocates fighting for the gopher tortoise’s placement on the list “won’t give up.”

“We’ll review this decision closely,” she adds. “And fight to get the tortoise the protections it needs to survive.”

The Habitats Are Not Protected, Endangering The Well-Being Of The Animals

Some states such as Florida require that the tortoises be moved out of the way of any major development. However, the habitats are not protected…leaving few options for the placement of these transferred animals. An emergency executive order was placed in Florida by wildlife officials just last winter. This move is due to a shortage of suitable habitats for these displaced gopher tortoises.

Some areas have put Endangered Species guidelines on these gopher tortoises in limited areas in the southern parts of the country. Such as sections of Louisiana, Mississippi, and western areas of Alabama. But that doesn’t go far enough for the protection of the species, advocates say. The tortoises in eastern Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are still waiting for the same protections that were only recently denied.