Gopher tortoise inches toward endangered species list

Written by  Jim Waymer

FLORIDA TODAY

July, 26th 2011

 

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced today it will add the gopher tortoise to a list of candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency concluded there’s enough evidence to justify a federal “threatened” listing of the tortoise in the eastern United States, based on a petition from the nonprofit groups, Save Our Big Scrub, Inc. and Wild South.

But agency officials said they would not list the gopher tortoise just yet because they don’t have the budget to do so. The cost to list a species ranges from $150,000 to more than $300,000.

“We think the information we have warrants listing but we don’t have the money or we have higher priority listing actions,” said Chuck Underwood, a spokesman with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Instead, the tortoise goes on a list of candidate species the agency promises to look into listing at some point.

Florida already lists the gopher tortoise as threatened, but a federal listing could increase protections and federal grant opportunities for habitat restoration.

The eastern portion of the gopher tortoise’s range includes Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama (east of the Tombigbee and Mobile rivers).

In the western range states, west of the Tombigbee River in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the gopher tortoise already is listed as threatened.

Original Article here