Promoting and Establishing the Recovery of Endangered Species on Private Lands: A Case Study of the Gopher Tortoise
51 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010
Date Written: Fall 2007
Important species are increasingly threatened on private lands and remain largely unregulated by federal and state laws. The gopher tortoise, present within six south-eastern states, is one such species. The tortoise is a keystone species, meaning that upon its existence numerous other species depend. Despite its ecological importance, tortoise populations have declined by 80%, partly due to development pressures, but primarily due to forest management practices which reduced the longleaf pine ecosystem upon which it depends by 96%. This article focuses on legal and policy issues associated with both urban development and forest management of lands containing the gopher tortoise. It describes the limited legal protections provided the tortoise and discusses landowner incentives to cooperate with such laws. Also, this article highlights voluntary private landowner protections provided for endangered and threatened species. Because private forest management practices are the primary cause of tortoise decline, the article concludes by suggesting management practices which can benefit both private landowners and the tortoise - i.e. private landowners can maintain important economic return from their property while at the same time protecting endangered or threatened species, like the gopher tortoise.
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