FGCU Plans Roadway Over Gopher Tortoise Habitat
Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers will build a new road on campus over what is now prime gopher tortoise habitat. The state lists the turtles as “threatened. » FGCU professors and students will lose a unique research area.
The university’s board of trustees made this roadway official in early December. It’s meant to give freshman housing on campus access to the main road Ben Hill Griffin Parkway. But right now, there are about 15 “threatened” gopher tortoises on that land where the road is planned.
It’s thought to be the last habitat of its kind on campus. And wildlife biology professor John Herman said he takes his students out there about 20 hours per semester. But Herman said it’s not just gopher tortoises they study.
« The list is at 300 plus species that utilize gopher tortoise burrows, » said Herman. « So by impacting that one species, you’re actually impacting hundreds of others and they’re found right where that road will be coming through. »
Herman said when the road gets built, he and his students will lose any kind of long-term data they’ve collected over the past couple years. But Steve Magiera of FGCU said this road is needed because of a safety issue. Several thousand students live in what’s called “South Village” on campus, and there’s only one bridge for them to drive out right now.
« If something happens on that bridge– an accident or a hazard truck or something of that nature– how do we get the students off of there? » asked Magiera. « So we need another entrance into that South Village and that’s what this will provide for us. »
FGCU is still waiting on approval for the project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Then the university will have to get permitting from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to relocate the gopher tortoises. John Herman, the wildlife biology professor, said he hopes he and his students can take part in the relocation to at least gain some knowledge through this process.tortoises