A preservation area all their own—increasing gopher tortoise population density in restored habitat
When gopher tortoises occupied lands proposed for development, we found a solution. We were engaged to conduct a natural features inventory (NFI), as required by the City of Tallahassee, on four parcels of land slated for development. During these efforts, we observed two state-listed species—gopher tortoise and bent golden aster. State and local permits were obtained, and a habitat management plan prepared to facilitate gopher tortoise relocation to an 82-acre (33-hectare), on-site preservation area.
To develop the plan, we evaluated and compared the existing on-site habitat with historical conditions. Plan implementation included the removal of hardwood trees, thinning of native longleaf pine, herbicide treatment of non-native nuisance and exotic plant species, mowing/roller chopping, and coordination of prescribed burns with the Florida Department of Forestry to restore habitat for the tortoises and other listed species. Ongoing annual habitat and species monitoring has aided in successful implementation of management activities leading to increased habitat quality and populations of these listed species.
To date, our land management efforts have increased the gopher tortoise density and expanded bent golden aster populations throughout preservation lands.
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