Federal protection of the gopher tortoise, a keystone species of upland habitats in Florida and elsewhere in the Southeast, has been on hold for decades.
The Center for Biological Diversity has announced it is suing to force federal officials to proceed with efforts to list this species under the Endangered Species Act.
Gopher tortoises live in burrows. Those burrows not only shelter them from fire and weather extremes, but also shelter hundreds of other species ranging from declining species of snakes such as Eastern indigo and Eastern diamondback rattlesnake to small mammals and a variety of insects.
The lawsuit also seeks to resume consideration of listing the Monarch butterfly, whose migratory populations in much of the country—including the Florida Panhandle—have been declining because of pesticide use and changing management practices on farmland and road rights of way.
The suit was filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of the Interior in federal court in Washington D.C.