The Gopher Tortoise and the Working Forest
Amos is a gopher tortoise, a keystone species throughout the southern US and one that the forest products industry takes great care to make at-home in working forests.
Keystone species are a significant contributor to the ecosystems where they live. A gopher tortoise’s burrow – some as big as 23 feet deep and 52 feet long – can be home to more than 300 types of forest critters.
Gopher tortoises need their habitats to have sandy, well-drained soil for burrowing and lots of sunlight to ensure they have plants and brush to eat. In working forests across the Southeastern US, our management helps improve these conditions. For example, we thin the forest to keep it healthy and productive. But thinning and harvesting the trees isn’t just good for our business, it also allows the sun to shine down, nourishing the vegetation and providing food for tortoises like Amos.
Gopher tortoises are a threatened species in some areas, and managing the forest they live in also means care and protection. In working forests, we make sure that in planting, harvesting timber, or managing the land, we protect gopher tortoises and their habitats. Burrows are mapped so that they are planned around and protected. Some companies even use technology to create a digital map of where the burrows are on their land and use that as a guide.