The HSUS has always recognized that the destruction of habitat is life-threatening to wild creatures. When habitats are fragmented or demolished for roadbuilding or commercial or residential development, animals are driven from their homes and often displaced or destroyed.
In the United States, there are 300 million of us, and we are paving and building upon millions of acres of wild lands every year. More than 5,000 acres a day are being developed in this country, in fact. The problem is especially acute in coastal regions, and wild animals who live in these habitats are suffering.
One way The HSUS helps is by acquiring and protecting wild lands through our HSUS Wildlife Land Trust. It is an antidote to development and offers sanctuary for wild animals in 33 states. If you know landowners who have an ethic of protecting that land (and do not allowing hunting on it), introduce them to the Wildlife Land Trust. (If you’d like to volunteer for duty to walk our properties and help monitor them, contact us.)
Short of acquiring a tract or enforcing permanent restrictions on one, The HSUS also tries to work with developers on compromises that limit destruction of the animals (such as rescue, relocation, or onsite habitat preservation).
In recent months, The HSUS has spotlighted the grim plight of the gopher tortoise. A burrowing animal located only in the southeastern United States, the tortoises are often crushed by construction equipment or buried alive. The HSUS’s Jen Hobgood, regional coordinator for our southeast office, has worked mightily to protect the tortoises, advocate for habitat preservation, and rescue these victims of our inexorable development.
She and The HSUS recently worked with a Florida developer and a sanctuary to save an estimated 500 gopher tortoises before their habitat was destroyed. Watch the video as—one by one—these terrestrial creatures are excavated from a near-certain death.
We continue to advocate for greater protections for these animals, and last fall, under pressure from The HSUS, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) created a rescue relocation policy that allows citizens to save tortoises living on lands slated for development. On August 1, 2007, the FWC finally stopped issuing permits that allow developers to "pay and bury" gopher tortoises, requiring developers with new permit applications to move tortoises out of harm’s way before construction begins. Even though the gopher tortoise’s protected status is expected to be upgraded to Threatened in September, many unused, "grandfathered" kill permits would still allow the destruction of thousands more tortoises.