Gopher tortoise. Photo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that Florida’s gopher tortoise population does not meet the criteria for protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The federal agency says it is withdrawing the tortoise as a candidate for the protections.
The federal agency’s decision applies to the gopher tortoise population in Florida and also Georgia, South Carolina and most of Alabama.
A separate population in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana will remain listed federally as threatened. Elise Bennett of the Center for Biological Diversity says the decision is devastating.
“This isn’t just about protecting a cute tortoise, although I do think they’re adorable. It’s really about protecting the places that we care about most in the state, the places that we go to relax, unwind.”
In Florida, the gopher tortoise is pressured by development, as the tortoise prefers the same upland habitats developers prefer. The animal is listed in the state as threatened — which provides some protections, like relocation in areas of development.
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