“…Everything affecting the gopher tortoise’s habitat affects the tortoise and … eventually affects all other organisms in its ecosystem. Efforts to save the gopher tortoise are really a manifestation of our desire to preserve intact, significant pieces of the biosphere.
…We must preserve…the gopher tortoise and other species in similar predicaments, for if we do not, we lose a part of our humanity, a part of our habitat, and ultimately our world.”
—Dr. George W. Folkerts, Auburn University, Alabama
The first and most important component of gopher tortoise conservation is to conserve and manage remaining upland habitat, including the wetlands that are a part of the complete ecosystem. We also advocate restoration of upland habitat that has been degraded by intensive silviculture, mining, destruction of native ground cover, and fire exclusion. Much research has been conducted with the goal of evaluating the proper management guidelines for upland ecosystems, particularly longleaf pine habitats, including gopher tortoises and other upland species. Thinning of pines, prescribed burning, removal of exotic plants and animals, and replanting of native groundcover are all components of appropriate management of gopher tortoise habitat.
GT Minimum Viable Population Working Group
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 12-month finding for listing the gopher tortoise as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has stimulated additional interest in conservation of the species. A Candidate Conservation Agreement and a comprehensive strategy have been developed for the gopher tortoise. It will be necessary to define a minimum viable population size, the number of viable populations needed, and the ideal geographic distribution of these populations in order to successfully conserve this species.