FLORIDA’S GOPHER TORTOISE COORDINATOR
VISITS DON PEDRO ISLAND
Katherine Gentry Richardson, Ph.D. from Tallahassee, visited Don Pedro Island on Saturday, November 27. The two-hour island tour, sponsored by Bocilla Islands Conservancy Inc., highlighted the islands’ gopher tortoise conservation program.
Dr. Richardson heads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Gopher Tortoise Program charged with restoring and maintaining secure, viable populations of gopher tortoises throughout Florida. According to the FWC, gopher tortoises are listed as Threatened, which is defined as a species likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Gopher tortoises share their burrows with more than 350 other species. Florida law protects both the tortoise and its burrow. “Gopher tortoises must be relocated before any land clearing or development takes place, and property owners must obtain permits from the FWC before capturing and relocating tortoises” (https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/).
Dr. Richardson also heads the state’s Gopher Tortoise Friendly Yard Recognition Program which recognizes and encourages private landowners to enhance habitat quality and take steps to protect the GT and its burrows. Dr. Richardson visited several properties on the island that had been awarded the yard sign and certificate.
The tour also emphasized the GT density and habitat changes that have occurred over the years due to island development and the diversity in soil and vegetation on various lots. Dr. Richardson shared information on the State regulations and policies that impact the permitting process. Also discussed were grant opportunities to support GT education and outreach on the islands.
The visit was a huge success. “I am blown away by the number of programs, the quality of the programs, the community involvement and the future projects the Conservancy is planning”, said Dr. Richardson. Why so many accolades to the Bocilla Islands Conservancy? According to Dr. Richardson, there are virtually no communities in the state of Florida accomplishing what we have and will be accomplishing.
Bocilla Island Conservancy, Inc. tour guides included Kjell Plotkin, Jayne Kebe, and Vivian Correa.
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