Eric Sievers (Wildlands Conservation, GTC Junior Co-Chair)
Wildlands Conservation is now accepting orders for the specialty gopher tortoise license plate. In order to bring awareness to the plight of the gopher tortoise, we have created this specialty license plate and will use the generated funds for gopher tortoise habitat conservation, habitat management, education, and research. With your help, we can help protect gopher tortoises and their upland habitat!
Specialty license plates have been an essential part of the conservation strategy for other Florida species including the manatee, Florida panther, and sea turtles, and we wish to add the gopher tortoise to this list. The gopher tortoise is a threatened species in the state of Florida, primarily due to the loss of upland habitat. A keystone species, gopher tortoises dig burrows that are used by more than 360 other animal species, including some that live nowhere else.
Inspired by wildlife rehabber Chelsey Vowles, the idea for the plate formed after she witnessed countless gopher tortoises being killed and injured while trying to cross the road. Chelsey’s passion for healing and helping tortoises was the spark necessary to get the license plate started.
The annual use fees from the sale of the plate will be distributed to Wildlands Conservation to fund research, education, and conservation, as well as upland habitat protection, restoration, and management in Florida to benefit the gopher tortoise and other upland species. Up to 10 percent of the funds received by Wildlands Conservation may be used for marketing of the plate and costs directly associated with the administration of the gopher tortoise license plate program. Wildlands Conservation will use and distribute the funds to eligible Florida-based scientific, conservation, and educational organizations for gopher tortoise, commensal species, and upland habitat research, conservation, and management through a grants program (full bill text here).
The gopher tortoise plate, with artwork by Matt Patterson, will be produced as soon as 3,000 vouchers have been purchased. Vouchers cost $33 each, of which $25 will directly go towards gopher tortoise conservation. If you hold a valid Florida Driver’s License or have a Florida-registered vehicle, you are eligible to purchase vouchers for your car, truck, trailer, and RV! Vouchers can be purchased at any time–you do not need to wait until your registration renewal date to order one. To reserve your plate and for more information, visit https://wildlandsconservation.org/gopher-tortoise-license-plate.