Range-wide Conservation Strategy for the Gopher Tortoise (DRAFT)
WEBINAR Overview AGENDA 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.
Co-host contact informationSoutheastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA):Elsa M. Haubold, PhDSection Leader - Species Conservation Planning SectionFlorida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission& Chair, SEAFWA Wildlife Diversity CommitteeElsa.Haubold@MyFWC.comU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS):Matt HinderliterRange-Wide Gopher Tortoise Lead BiologistMississippi Ecological Services Field Officefw4gophertortoise@fws.gov
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
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 foundin Appendix 2).Threats to the species: Organized by Endangered Species Act (ESA)listing factors, this section summarizes the primary threats to thespecies; the majority of this information is taken from the “12-MonthFinding on a Petition to List the Gopher Tortoise as Threatened in theEastern Portion of its Range.” (July 27, 2011).Current conservation efforts/Summary of conservation statusConservation objectives and action plans: Organized primarily byESA listing factors, this section identifies the specific information,commitments, etc. necessary to address the threats to the species, andthose actions, that if effectively implemented, could preclude the needto list the species.
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 rangerequires evaluation of: Distribution of populations How many tortoises/population How many populations Population demography Trends in population growth
An adult, juvenile, and hatchling (L-R) gopher tortoise
Status of the speciesFrom population modeling efforts (referenced in the 12-monthfinding), 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 longperiods of time throughout their range, not because theirpopulations are stable or increasing, but because they are long-lived.
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).
(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 insufficientfire management)Direct or indirect results to habitat:Direct conversion/loss of habitat, shrub & hardwoodencroachment, invasive species establishment, canopy closure, anddecline of available forage & groundcoverDirect or indirect results to species:Road and other direct mortality, reproductive isolation, small anddiscontinuous populations, edge effects (such as increasedpredation), displacement of tortoises to undesirable habitat
Poor-quality gopher tortoise habitat: High tree density(lack of forage and sunlight for basking/egg incubation)
Poor-quality gopher tortoise habitat: Established invasivespecies (cogongrass) – native forage species outcompeted
Poor-quality gopher tortoise habitat: High shrub density(lack of forage and sunlight for basking/egg incubation)
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)
Objective 1: Address the present and threatened destruction,modification, or curtailment of gopher tortoise habitatExamples 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
High-quality gopher tortoise habitat (Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway): plentiful and diverse forage, abundant sunlight
Habitat management and silvicultural activities can be compatible with gopher tortoise conservation
Objective 2: Address issues related to overutilization forcommercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes Work with partners to convert the two remaining rattlesnake round-ups to wildlife festivals
Objective 3: Investigate and mitigate disease and predationeffects 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
Objective 4: Investigate range-wide effective regulatorymechanisms 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
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
Filling out the action item spreadsheet: 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
Types of comments on the strategy:Should there be additional action items, or has there beenadditional research/agreements done recently that would addressthe current action items?Help to identify the appropriate people/organizations to addressand implement the action items on the strategyComments should be received by September 15, 2012.Appropriate revisions will be made and a second draft of theStrategy circulated by October 1, 2012.Please submit comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
THANK YOU!Additional identical webinars will be held September 5 @ 2pm EST, and September 6 @ 10am EST.