Recent research on the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) has indicated its ecological importance, revealed reasons for its decline, and suggested management strategies. It is generally associated with the sandhill community but occurs in a variety of other natural and ruderal habitats. Limiting factors include well-drained sandy soil, adequate herbaceous food, and sunlit nesting sites. Tortoise densities and movements are related to herbaceous biomass. As the principal sandhill grazer, the gopher tortoise serves as a seed dispersal agent for native groundstory plants. The burrowing habits of the gopher tortoise return leached nutrients to the surface and the burrows provide refuges for many other species. Female gopher tortoises reach sexual maturity at 10-20 yr of age and produce a single annual clutch of about six eggs. Recruitment is reduced by heavy egg and hatchling predation. The major reasons for the decline of the gopher tortoise are habitat destruction, habitat degradation, and human predation. Recommended conservation measures include prescribed burning of sandhill habitat, establishment of preserves, protection from over-harvest restocking, and public education. ©1986 The Herpetologists' League, Inc. Abstract reproduced by permission.