Gopher Tortoise Threatened but Unprotected

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The gopher tortoise is threatened by loss of habitat but it won’t be protected as an endangered species because of “higher priority” species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. Instead, the tortoise will join 266 other species on the agency’s candidate species list.
     The gopher tortoise is endemic to the U.S. Southeast and was listed as threatened in 1987 under the Endangered Species Act in the western portion of its habitat – west of the Mobile and Tombigbee Rivers in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
     After doing its yearly “species review,” Fish & Wildlife said that no change in the gopher tortoise’s listing status was warranted.
     Gopher tortoises need well drained, sandy soils to burrowing and builds nests. It prefers ridges near pine and oak uplands, a habitat that is rapidly becoming fragmented by development and conversion of natural forests to tree plantations.
     The agency reviews the candidate species list annually to determine to if any of its members can be listed under the Act given budget restraints and higher priority listing actions for species more imperiled than those on the list.
     Here is Fish & Wildlife’s July 27 statement. [TEXT]

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