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World News | Gopher tortoise endangered status sought in 4 states

St. Petersburg (USA), March 22 (AP) — Gopher tortoises threatened by habitat loss from human development should be added to the endangered species list in four southern states, an environmental group said Wednesday as they prepare to Sue the federal government over it.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Nokuse Education Center filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year over its decision not to list gopher turtles in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and eastern Alabama as endangered or threatened species.

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The center notes that there are some national-level protections for cave turtles, but these typically require the animals to be removed from development sites rather than protecting their overall habitat.

The longleaf pine savanna in the South, where tortoises lived for millions of years, has lost 97 percent.

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“Without the life-saving Endangered Species Act protections for our gopher tortoises, urban sprawl will push them closer and closer to extinction,” said Elise Bennett, the center’s Florida director attorney.

The Fish and Wildlife Service predicts that by 2100, 75 percent of the current gopher turtle population will be gone.

The burrows they dig with their shovel-like front legs can reach 30 feet (9 meters) underground, and are used by an estimated 360 other species.

The tortoises are listed as endangered in Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of western Alabama, but efforts to put them on the eastern range have proved futile.

Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in October 2022 that “the risk factors for gopher tortoises and their habitat, individually or in combination, are not of sufficient urgency, scope, or intensity” to constitute threatened or Endangered status. The decision has resulted in pending litigation.

According to the center’s lawsuit, gopher tortoises once inhabited more than 92 million acres (37 million hectares) in the southeastern U.S., but now account for only half of that space due to human development, agriculture, climate change, invasive species and other concerns. A small portion of attention.

They can live up to 80 years, but reach reproductive age at a slower rate.

The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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