BOCC Recognizes Gopher Tortoises as Important

By: Ashley Caso

Gopher Tortoise Day, officially designated by the Gopher Tortoise Council, was celebrated on April 10th in Lee County. The Lee County Commission proclaimed April 10th as Gopher Tortoise Day, following efforts by the East Lee Wildlife Stewardship Group and the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium. Commissioner Brian Hamman read the proclamation aloud on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at the BOCC meeting at the Board Chambers in the Old Lee County Courthouse. Dr. Cindy Banyai and James Kennedy represented these organizations at the Board of County Commissioners meeting, where Commissioner Brian Hamman read the proclamation.

Gopher Tortoises, recognized as essential for maintaining ecosystem balance, were honored on their special day. As a keystone species, they play a crucial role by creating deep burrows that provide shelter for over 350 other species. Under Florida state law, Gopher Tortoise and their burrows are protected, and specific guidelines are in place for their handling and relocation.

To commemorate Gopher Tortoise Day, a celebration and a screening of the world premiere documentary “Gopher Games: The Fight to Save the Heart of Florida” was held at the Calusa Nature Center. The event received support from the community, including a generous donation from Ralph and Jean Woodring of Sanibel. The event’s success marked a significant step forward for the East Lee Wildlife Stewardship Group, signaling a commitment to further conservation efforts in Southwest Florida!

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