Florida to help gopher tortoises

Oct. 14, 2007 at 11:12 AM
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MIAMI, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Florida is moving to ban the entombment of gopher tortoises covered over by developers with asphalt and concrete.

Thousands of the slow-moving tortoises have been buried alive during the last 16 years by developers given permits to build on top of the tortoises' underground homes, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

"Trying to dig out, day after day, but not being able to, it's got to be pretty horrible," said Matthew J. Aresco, a Florida biologist who helped bring the tortoises' plight to light.

Florida last month halted new permits and will begin requiring developers to relocate the tortoises to areas where they might thrive. The state also plans to buy or protect thousands of acres of tortoise habitat, the Post reported.

But the state is honoring more than 90 already-issued building permits allowing entombment of gopher tortoises to continue in the short term.

"I don't think anyone wanted to entomb tortoises," said Joy Hill, a conservation commission spokeswoman. "But we can't stop development, and this was the best option at the time."

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