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Feds: Gopher tortoise not threatened over most of its range

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The federal government says the gopher tortoise isn't threatened in most of its range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision Tuesday is likely to disappoint environmental groups that sued to get federal protection for them. The reptiles were named for their burrowing, and their tunnels shelter hundreds of other species.

The agency says that small disconnected populations in southeastern Mississippi and bits of Louisiana and Alabama remain threatened. It says extensive conservation work and recent discovery of additional populations have removed the animal from consideration for protection in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and most of coastal Alabama. An environmental group has said it believes the tortoise needs federal protection everywhere.