The gopher tortoise is Georgia's official state reptile

The gopher tortoise is Georgia's official state reptile

Thousands of acres of land in Camden County has been set aside for conservation. The purchase of the property is part of a continuing effort to protect the state’s official reptile, the endangered gopher tortoise.

The Conservation Fund and Open Space Institute bought the 16,083-acre tract. The so-called “Ceylon” property borders the Satilla River, according to Andrew Schock, the state director for the Conservation Fund.

“The property is one of the largest undeveloped, unprotected sites on the southeast Atlantic coast,” he said. “It’s 9,800 acres of upland (forest) balanced by the roughly 6,200 acres of salt marsh is just unparalleled.”

Schock said the land also includes around 300 acres of longleaf pine. The plan is for the Open Space Institute to work with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to restore gopher tortoise and longleaf pine habitats and make the land available for public use as a state wildlife management area.

Shock said it’s a perfect home for the gopher tortoise.

“It is in population sizes more dense than any other location that we’re aware of in Georgia and through studies completed by the DNR it appears there are over 2,000 individual gopher tortoises on this tract.”

The purchase is part of an ongoing effort to prevent the reptile from becoming federally listed. That action by the federal government could impose significant restrictions on the timber and agriculture industries, impacting Georgia’s economy.