Volume 43, Number 1
Eric Sievers (GTC Junior Co-Chair)
Dear GTC Members and Gopher Tortoise Enthusiasts,
I am honored to serve as the new Junior Co-Chair alongside Matt Elliott and increase my involvement with GTC. I have served on the GTC Executive Committee since 2016 in the roles of Membership Secretary and Website Manager, and am excited for the opportunities my new position affords. I am a senior ecologist at Wildlands Conservation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit land trust and conservation organization based in Tampa, FL. Wildlands is a multifaceted organization that offers FWC-approved authorized gopher tortoise agent training, helps landowners establish gopher tortoise recipient sites and implement conservation strategies, conducts gopher tortoise research, and most recently, is working to establish a gopher tortoise license plate in the state of Florida (for more information, see the article below!). Prior to my work with Wildlands, I was the Southwest Region’s Gopher Tortoise Conservation Biologist for FWC out of Lakeland, FL. Originally from the Midwest, Lora Smith and Jen Howze with the Jones Center brought me to the Southeast almost a decade ago and introduced me to the gopher tortoise as a crew leader conducting tortoise LTDS surveys on state-owned lands in Florida.
Happy Gopher Tortoise Day to all those who celebrated on April 10th! This annual celebration allows us to reflect on this amazing keystone species and raise awareness for the tortoise, commensal species, and the upland habitat they rely on. Party on tortoise friends!
I look forward to hosting the 2024 annual meeting in the Tampa Bay area, after past Co-Chair Jeff Goessling’s best-laid plans for a meeting in St. Petersburg, FL, were derailed twice by COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. Hoping to see you all in Georgia for this year’s annual meeting!
Gopher Tortoise Day at Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area has become an annual signature event to inform the public about and celebrate the importance of the gopher tortoise as a keystone species. Split Oak Forest was set aside in the mid 1990’s specifically to mitigate for, protect, and preserve gopher tortoise habitat in the fast growing Central Florida region.
Vice-Mayor Frohike signs the Proclamation (with non-toxic water soluble green paint and expert handling by Kim Titterington of Swamp Girl Adventures). Mayor Sheldon was a bit under the weather and fortunately, Vice-Mayor Frohike was on call to perform the ceremony.
Susan Skinner (City of Satellite Beach Naturalist)
Nearly 60 children and adults joined our shellebration of Gopher Tortoise Day in Satellite Beach. The city’s Planning and Sustainability Department partnered with the local branch of the Brevard County Library to host an educational outreach event on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 12. The Satellite Beach Library was chosen as the location because the property and the neighboring sports park and scrub area host a small population of gopher tortoises that are highly visible to community members.