Ashton Biodiversity Research & Wildlands Conservation Inc
Ashton Biodiversity Research & Preservation Institute, Inc (ABRPI) has a long history of providing training programs on gopher tortoise relocation and management activities. Pat Ashton, renowned gopher tortoise expert, teacher, and author is teaching classes in cooperation with Wildlands Conservation staff.
ABRPI has teamed with Wildlands Conservation, Inc, a non-profit organization with tremendous experience in gopher tortoise management and environmental education, to offer programs around the state. Julie Morris, who has spent much of the past decade working in tortoise management and research and is currently a representative of the public on FWC’s Gopher Tortoise Technical Advisory Committee, will be teaching with Pat Ashton. She has collaborated with the Ashton’s for much of the past 10 years.
Ray Ashton, our partner in teaching the gopher tortoise classes, died of cancer at the age of 64 on March 11, 2010. Ray was a noted herpetologist, author, explorer, teacher, researcher, and conservationist. His herpetological field guides, co-authored with his beloved wife Pat, set the bar as the best since they were published in the late 1980’s. He dedicated most of his life to the conservation of natural Florida and his focus was the gopher tortoise. He finally published a text on the tortoise in 2008, which represents a lifetime of Ray’s experiences. The work Ray leaves behind is testimony to his boundless energy and passion for Florida and Florida ecology. Ray did things his way and although he could be somewhat irascible and contentious, he was true in his beliefs; there was never any doubt where Ray stood on issues. This quality, this “never take no” as an answer undoubtedly translated into great strides in tortoise conservation.
If you were one of the countless citizens that were interested or concerned for the tortoise, Ray was the man. With a phone call, he would dedicate himself to assisting you with your issue no matter what the personal cost and investment of time. He was like this until the very end – fielding questions to assist us with the classes while undergoing intensive treatment for cancer.
As many have said, the tortoise lost one of its greatest allies with Ray’s passing. There is a void that will be hard, if not impossible to fill. We hope to carry on Ray’s legacy in our classes by teaching with emphasis on the things he was impassioned about. His slides, his words, and his experience are all embedded in the curriculum.
So as with all losses, we are forced to carry on with the underlying sorrow that with all of Ray’s accomplishments, his passion, his energy, and his legacy, what we will miss most deeply is our friend.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Requirements
The gopher tortoise was officially upgraded to Threatened by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). FWC is requiring that any individual working with the relocation and management of the gopher tortoise be certified as Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent. The use of Authorized Agents for gopher tortoise permit activities is now required by the FWC according to their Permitting Guidelines. Please read the requirements to become an authorized agent, to determine if you need to take our courses for certification: http://myfwc.com/docs/LicensesPermits/PW_GopherTortoisePermitGuidelines.pdf