Eastern Population of Gopher Tortoise Eligible for Endangered Species Act Protection
The United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has released its listing decision for the eastern population of gopher tortoise. The USFWS has determined that listing the eastern population of the tortoise as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is warranted, however, it is precluded from doing so at this time due to higher priority actions and a lack of sufficient funds to commence proposed rule development. The western population is already listed as Threatened and will continue to be protected under the ESA. In the interim period of time the USFWS will place the eastern population of the tortoise on its candidate species list until sufficient funding is available to initiate a proposed listing rule. The USFWS did not provide any time estimate on that front. Candidate species do not receive any statutory protection under the ESA. The gopher tortoise in Florida is still protected under Florida laws and policies implemented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.