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Some Florida residents say protected Gopher Tortoises may been wiped out by developers

Could Florida growth mean tough times for the rare tortoise?

Stuart, Florida- Residents in scenic Stuart, Florida are mad and want answers. They think protected Gopher Tortoises might have been killed in a rush to build local hospital offices.

In a public email obtained by the CFSC, Stephen Mayer, Senior Planner for the Stuart Development Department is “mortified” to learn of the possibility of over 20 tortoises found dead on the site. “They were obviously coming from the construction site,” he states.

Mayer and the City of Stuart told CFSC that Environmental biologist, Toby Overdorf, was hired by the developers to oversee any environmental concerns. We caught up to Overdorf, who is running for Florida House District 83, and he claimed to have no knowledge of any problems even after he was shown Mayer’s email.

“I moved to Martin County because this area was a beautiful place to live,” said resident Kelly Graham. When asked about the new development and its impact on the local environment and wildlife including the gopher tortoise, Graham stated. “It’s very saddening, it’s very heartbreaking to see that they would develop a site and just kill off all the wildlife that was on it.”

CFSC also spoke to environmental lawyer Virginia Sherlock who claims some developers will shortcut the process to save money. “Of course, it’s cheaper, faster and much easier to just bulldoze the boroughs. It happens because nobody is watching,” said Sherlock.

With proper permitting, developers must relocate protected Gopher Tortoises to safe mitigation sites. Developers must cough up about $1,000 per turtle, plus fees to environmental consultants like Overdorf.

In this case, Overdorf claims he found burrows or turtle homes on the site which is located near the St. Lucie River on Kanner Highway and Indian Street, but he couldn’t find any Gopher Tortoises.

Construction has continued without any delays.