COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Private builders are looking to bring in business, but say a threatened tortoise species is in their way. Now, the county is trying to make a new gopher tortoise preserve, but there's a fight over who gets to use it.
During the building boom a few years ago, developers could kill any gopher tortoise in their way. That may be part of the reason they're a threatened species now, and it costs big bucks to build where these guys borrow.
"They're paying over a thousand dollars a tortoise to relocate them," Andrew McElwaine with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida explains.
In fact, McElwaine says it can be quite costly for private developers to move into tortoise territory.
"If it's a good upland you might have say a dozen. So that's an expense of doing business if they have to pay $30, $40 thousand to relocate the gopher tortoise."
Right now, preservation areas to relocate these tortoises are only open for county projects such as roads. But, private developers want in. Opening preserves to everyone means more land to relocate the turtles, which ultimately cuts costs for developers to build.
Conservationists oppose the idea.
"Why make it easier and cheaper to relocate them. It seems to me that's not in the interest of the environment," McElwaine says.
The final decision will be up to commissioners to amend their current policy. We'll let you know what they decide.