Gopher Tortoise Reserve Program
The Gopher Tortoise Reserve Program is designed to encourage private landowners who are interested in gopher tortoise and uplands conservation to join with people of like interests in this conservation effort. The program provides education and support based on the appropriate membership category for an individual, corporation, or agency.
The applicants must sign an agreement that they would not knowingly endanger the tortoises or other protected species on their property and that they would abide by current state and federal regulations. The initial fee for joining the Gopher Tortoise Preserve Program would be the same for all members, the cost of joining GTCI. (See membership information.) For the set registration fee, each member receives basic information about the natural history of the gopher tortoise, conservation information, how to obtain appropriate permits from FFWCC and current regulations.
The list of services available from the Institute for free or for an additional fee are listed in the application form. GTCI provides one or more one-day courses on “Land Management and Monitoring for Gopher Tortoises. These workshops involve hands-on training and information on tortoise and habitat management and provide an opportunity for individuals to discuss and share experiences with fellow members.
Membership categories would be based on land size and management issues, resulting in the following categories:
This category is made up of homeowners who may have a tortoise (or a small colony) living on their property or may have suitable habitat to house one or more displaced tortoises (to do this they would need to obtain a permit from the FFWCC). Basic information described in the Benefits to Members would be provided upon joining the Gopher Tortoise Reserve Program.
Owners of Habitats that are 5 to 25 acres:
Members in this category may include people who have ranchettes or have a small piece of property that would not be large enough for a relocation of tortoises under today’s guidelines. They may currently have a colony of tortoises on-site or they may have land suitable for a small relocation. Basic information described in the Benefits to Members would be provided upon joining the Gopher Tortoise Reserve Program along with additional information related to how to manage both natural and farmland tortoises and their habitat.
Members with More than 25 acres:
Members in this category would have enough land for a relocation of tortoises under today’s guidelines. They may currently have a colony of tortoises on site or they may have a habitat suitable for relocation. Basic information described in the Benefits to Members would be provided upon joining the Gopher Tortoise Reserve Program along with additional information related to how to manage both natural and farmland tortoises and their habitat. Additional benefits and services for Landowners or managers of properties over 25 acres are outlined below.
For a downloadable application click here: Tortoise Reserve Application Form (PDF)
Additional Information: Gopher Tortoise Management in Yards, Small Ranches, Farms and Mitigation Parks (PDF)
For more information e-mail us at Tortfarm2@aol.com
Biological Survey and Habitat Evaluation:
Publicly Owned Lands:
These are lands that are owned and managed by various city, county, state or federal agencies, which may contain upland habitats and could or have tortoise populations. Many of these agencies may not have the expertise to develop management or they may have a Habitat Management Plan and simply would like a professional review of their plan and an endorsement by the Institute. Staff and managers would receive training on land and tortoise and other upland management, ongoing monitoring programs and in developing public education programs.
Additional Available Services:
Beyond the basic membership, landowners or managers may request more in-depth information and guidance in developing conservation efforts on the land. There would be a fee established for each of these services although they would be well below normal consultant fees for similar services because this is a non-profit organization and some of the costs are off-set by the project. The goal is to create a sustainable situation that will not be dependent upon continued outside funding in the future.
Members may receive:
The Institute May provide staff to go on-site for a fee to conduct tortoise and other protected species surveys, map vegetative communities, and evaluate forage and other important points on which to develop management plans.
Habitat Management Plan:
On-site evaluations and habitat management plans for a fee. This service includes developing a Habitat Management Plan which contains recommendations on burning or mechanical management of the habitat, tortoise forage and other points which are important to sustain tortoises or increase the tortoise carrying capacity.
Habitat Management Services:
The Institute will provide services for a fee to carry out the management plan that is recommended to meet the management goals of the landowner.
Conservation Easements, Less Than Fee and Tax Exemptions:
Where appropriate, the landowner or manager can receive advice on participating in county or state level programs pertaining to conservation easements, tax incentives for agricultural or conservation tax exemptions. Also where appropriate, if owners are concerned about future endangered species liability, they will be encouraged to obtain a “Safe Harbor Agreement” with FFWCC.
Some Current Members
GTCI has in the program more than 25 land owners with nearly 100,000 acres involved. Included in the Tortoise Reserve Program are:
- 14 Landowners with 1-10acres
- 6 Private Land owners with 10-1000 acres
- The Florida Chapter of the Nature Conservancy,
- Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
- Hillsborough County
- Lee County
- Collier County