The Eastern Box Turtle is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because of declining populations. Many states have laws protecting this species from exploitation; in Georgia it is illegal to keep a box turtle as a pet.
Box turtles can live over 100 years. Here is a quote about Box Turtles from an article on HubPages.com that should give you an idea of why Box Turtles are protected:
Every adult box turtle is vital to its population’s future.
In the fragmented habitats that are typical of the eastern United States box turtle populations are so sensitive to losing adults that, in modeling studies performed by Dr. Richard Seigel of Towson University, a loss of only three adult box turtles from a population of 50 males and 50 females could put the population on a slow, and irreversible, decline to extinction.
Most box turtles never survive to reach breeding age (8 + years): Foxes, raccoons, skunks, crows, opossums, turkeys, domestic cats and dogs, and other animals eat turtle eggs and young turtles with shells not yet hard enough to provide good protection. Any turtles that do survive have to contend with roads and also with development which causes a loss of habitat, which also brings more roads, more dogs and cats, and more people who like to take turtles from the wild, hoping that they can make pets of them. Every one of the years (50 – 100) that a wild female box turtle can live is critical to ensuring that, of the three to five eggs she lays a year, at least one of her young will become an adult to replace her in that population.
Box Turtles spend their whole life in a 2 to 4 acre range. They have an instinctive homing ability; if removed from their home, they will go back to it. They need sunlight and the moist forest floor to thrive.
So if you see a Box Turtle in the forest, leave it alone! But feel free to take a photograph and share it here or with the Friends of Briarlake Forest.