Based on field work to identify properties with viable populations of gopher tortoises, Georgia DNR and partners established a goal for the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative to preserve a minimum of 100,000 acres of land. The belief is this would preclude the need to list the gopher tortoise and numerous other species while also protecting our water sources, important conservation areas and providing additional public recreation lands. Considering this would be achieved through fee simple purchases and conservation easements, because we recognize not all landowners will sell their properties, the cost to protect this land was projected to hit $150M.
This campaign is geared to protecting and managing enough gopher tortoise habitat to preclude a listing. The partners working on this effort realize that protection of the land is not enough to ensure the gopher tortoise and multiple other at‐risk species found in this community are sustainable. Restoration and long‐term management of these lands will be critical. As such, the partners are looking at ways to establish a stewardship fund to address these needs. Preliminary discussions indicate this fund will need to be in the $30 million range to assure that these properties are able to maintain viable populations.
Projected funding for the $150M land protection campaign would come from three sources; the State of Georgia ‐ $50M; Federal funding ‐ $50M; and private foundations and donors ‐ $50M (The Knobloch Family Foundation has already pledged $12.5M to this initiative). We now seek to refine roles and responsibilities for implementing organizations, invite new supporters and establish an aggressive, shared work plan.