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Range-wide Conservation Strategy for the Gopher Tortoise (DRAFT)

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Presentation on theme: "Range-wide Conservation Strategy for the Gopher Tortoise (DRAFT)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Range-wide Conservation Strategy for the Gopher Tortoise (DRAFT)

2  Stacy Shelton (Moderator)  Overview of USFWS Southeast “Candidate Conservation” Website.  Questions after each major section of webinar, raise hands.  Elsa Haubold (Co-Host, SEAFWA Wildlife Diversity Committee)  Importance of Partnerships in Gopher Tortoise Conservation.  Genesis of the draft strategy - USFWS/GA & FL.  Matt Hinderliter (Co-Host, USFWS Lead Biologist for the Gopher Tortoise)  Threats assessment based on the five listing factors.  Objectives and action items to address the threats.  Tracking implementation by partners.  Comment submission. Matt & Elsa will lead the presentation and answer questions. WEBINAR Overview AGENDA

3 Co-host contact information Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA): Elsa M. Haubold, PhD Section Leader - Species Conservation Planning Section Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission & Chair, SEAFWA Wildlife Diversity Committee U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS): Matt Hinderliter Range-Wide Gopher Tortoise Lead Biologist Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office

4 Purpose of the Conservation Strategy:  Lays out a preliminary course of action for the conservation of the gopher tortoise  It is our hope that partner implementation of this plan, with progress evaluated annually, will provide the information needed to address the threats to the species  Intended to be an adaptive document that will be revised as new information is received from the public and partners

5 Layout of the Strategy: Overview: Brief background of our information on the species, including population estimates, trends, and population status range-wide (specific life history traits, range, and habitat descriptions can be found in Appendix 2). Threats to the species: Organized by Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing factors, this section summarizes the primary threats to the species; the majority of this information is taken from the “12-Month Finding on a Petition to List the Gopher Tortoise as Threatened in the Eastern Portion of its Range.” (July 27, 2011). Current conservation efforts/Summary of conservation status Conservation objectives and action plans: Organized primarily by ESA listing factors, this section identifies the specific information, commitments, etc. necessary to address the threats to the species, and those actions, that if effectively implemented, could preclude the need to list the species.

6 Status of the Species: What do we know? Effectively assessing the status (i.e., whether it is increasing, decreasing, or stable) of the gopher tortoise throughout its range requires evaluation of:  Distribution of populations  How many tortoises/population  How many populations  Population demography  Trends in population growth

7 An adult, juvenile, and hatchling (L-R) gopher tortoise

8 Status of the species From population modeling efforts (referenced in the 12-month finding), we can draw two very general conclusions: 1. Gopher tortoise populations are likely to decline in the future under a wide array of demographic and environmental conditions that exist today. 2. Gopher tortoise populations, although declining, and in some cases functionally extinct, will persist for 100 to 200 years. The effect of these may be that tortoises will be seen for long periods of time throughout their range, not because their populations are stable or increasing, but because they are long- lived.

9 Threats to the species (5 ESA listing factors) (A)The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; (E)Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence (climate change, herbicides, road mortality, invasive species).

10 (A)The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (Examples, not an all-inclusive list) Activities: Road construction, urbanization, mining, sand extraction, silvicultural or agricultural conversion, fire exclusion (or insufficient fire management) Direct or indirect results to habitat: Direct conversion/loss of habitat, shrub & hardwood encroachment, invasive species establishment, canopy closure, and decline of available forage & groundcover Direct or indirect results to species: Road and other direct mortality, reproductive isolation, small and discontinuous populations, edge effects (such as increased predation), displacement of tortoises to undesirable habitat

11 Poor-quality gopher tortoise habitat: High tree density (lack of forage and sunlight for basking/egg incubation)

12 Poor-quality gopher tortoise habitat: Established invasive species (cogongrass) – native forage species outcompeted

13 Poor-quality gopher tortoise habitat: High shrub density (lack of forage and sunlight for basking/egg incubation)

14 How action items are organized in the Strategy:  Objective 1: Address the present and threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of gopher tortoise habitat (related to Listing Factor A)  Objective 2: Address issues related to overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes (related to Listing Factor B)  Objective 3: Investigate and mitigate disease and predation effects (related to Listing Factor C)  Objective 4: Investigate range-wide effective regulatory mechanisms (related to Listing Factor D)  Objective 5: Determine population viability parameters (additional scientific information necessary to address Listing Factor A)

15 Objective 1: Address the present and threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of gopher tortoise habitat Examples include:  Identify, prioritize, and protect viable tortoise populations;  Increase the size and/or carrying capacity of viable population areas through applied management, land acquisition, or incentives to adjacent landowners  Working with partners/land managers, maximize the amount of acreage appropriately maintained by prescribed fire, define DFCs and BMPs

16 High-quality gopher tortoise habitat (Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway): plentiful and diverse forage, abundant sunlight

17 Habitat management and silvicultural activities can be compatible with gopher tortoise conservation

18 Objective 2: Address issues related to overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes  Work with partners to convert the two remaining rattlesnake round-ups to wildlife festivals

19 Objective 3: Investigate and mitigate disease and predation effects  Initiate a risk assessment for current disease testing mechanisms  Identify and reduce the factors most negatively impacting juvenile tortoise recruitment, specifically predation effects from invasive and/or nuisance predators

20 Objective 4: Investigate range-wide effective regulatory mechanisms  Adopt mitigation strategies across the range that address the ongoing need for relocation of tortoises, but do it in a way as to minimize loss of preferred habitat, and maximize site fidelity

21 Objective 5: Determine population viability parameters  Establish consensus within the research community on what defines a viable gopher tortoise population  Establish consensus on the number and distribution of viable gopher tortoise populations necessary such that the species in the eastern range would not require listing  Establish a consistent mechanism of proper surveying & monitoring techniques and schedules, to accurately assess population levels, trends, and responses to management

22  Objectives & action items  Primary threats to the species  Actions needed to address specific threats  Policy/regulatory and implementation partners  Leads (FWS & State agency) and due dates Filling out the action item spreadsheet:

23 Our “roadmap” of how to follow our progress

24 Types of comments on the strategy: Should there be additional action items, or has there been additional research/agreements done recently that would address the current action items? Help to identify the appropriate people/organizations to address and implement the action items on the strategy Comments should be received by September 15, Appropriate revisions will be made and a second draft of the Strategy circulated by October 1, Please submit comments to:

25 THANK YOU! Additional identical webinars will be held August 1pm EST, September 2pm EST, and September 10am EST.


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