Little Manatee River Tortoises vs Development


The wooded spit of land along the Little Manatee River is currently home to 20 gopher tortoises. The state has designated the gopher tortoise as a species of special concern.

Representatives of SWW Incorporated, which originally proposed 25 homes on the site, returned with a new plan for 22 homes. They say their new proposal looks out for the interests of the wildlife and its habitat.

But Ruskin-area resident Mariella Smith opposes the development. She says the tortoises were there first and the county's own plans reflect a commitment to protecting them.

SMITH: These 20 tortoises are not in the middle of the suburbs. They're in the middle of a river, which our comp plan specifically directs us to manage for wildlife habitat.

The commissioners said the developer's new plan satisfies concerns about saving the tortoises and preserving the land's natural habitat. They approved the proposal by a vote of six to zero.

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