FEDERAL AGENCIES FAIL IN DESERT TORTOISE RECOVERY

Paige

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FEDERAL AGENCIES FAIL IN DESERT TORTOISE RECOVERY

1/8/03 San Diego. Public land access advocates served a notice of intent to sue to federal agencies on Wednesday charging that the U.S. Department of Interior, and its two subordinate agencies, the United Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have knowingly and negligently impeded the recovery of the desert tortoise since its listing as "threatened" in 1989.The four organizations, primarily off road groups, claim that the DOI, USFWS and BLM have failed to take reasonable steps to arrest the spread of Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (URTD), which is suspected to be the primary cause of dramatic declines in desert tortoise populations. The action also cites the agencies' failure to properly monitor the recovery efforts, and claim the agencies have ignored the growing body of science that indicates URTD, along with raven predation, are driving the species rapidly toward extinction throughout the deserts of California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

This action also follows the release of a report from the General Accounting Office (GAO), which indicates that federal government has spent over $100 million in the last 12 years trying to protect the tortoise; with little or no evidence these efforts have made any difference.

"The DOI efforts to recover the desert tortoise have been an abject failure.," states David P. Hubbard an environmental attorney who filed the notice. "Millions of dollars have been expended, and millions of acres of federal land have been closed off to public use; yet the tortoise continues to spiral towards extinction."

The filing will heat up the battle between recreationists and those who want to close the desert to off-road vehicles and campers. Since 1994, millions of acres of public lands have been closed off from motorized access, making over 14% of California inaccessible to the public.

"The federal agencies are being driven to closure decisions by environmental lawsuits, and fail to consider the science or economical impact of the communities that are affected.," states Michelle Cassella of AMA D-37 Sports Committee, the lead organization in the action. "Recent studies funded in part by off road interests clearly indicate that in many cases the public has little or no impact on threatened species. Ironically, it is the trails and highways in the desert that provide barriers for disease transmission among tortoise populations."

Other plaintiffs in the action include the California Off Road Vehicle Association (CORVA), Off Road Business Association (ORBA), and the San Diego Off Road Vehicle Association (SDORC).
David Hubbard is an environmental and land use attorney with the firm of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, LLP located in San Diego, CA. He represents public land advocates who have filed the 60 Day Notice of Intent to Sue. (760) 496-0776



<font color=yellow>Paige<font color=yellow>
 

V8Ranger

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Very interesting article. Where was it taken from? I was amazed that $100 million have been spent to save the tortise yet their population continues to decline. It really makes you wonder who's pockets the money is going into.
 

rdc

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I'd guess that the money is going to Diane Feinstein (sp?), the Sierra Club and Gray Davis.
 

jeff

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If you were to give, say 100 people on this board $1,000,000 dollars each to raise desert turtles for say, oh, the next 10 years, how many do you think could actually be bred and released back into the wild?

Government pisses me off to no end.

Aloha
 

martininsocal

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Jeff, it would never work. The environementalists and turtle folks have clauses in the weco and wemo plans that restrict non-native tortoises from being introduved into the wild. Go Figure! Corva has offered to pay for a head starting program for years, but if we can't introduce incubated tortoises into the wild to supplement the native population, there is no point.

Martin

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jeff

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Ok. What if I moved to the desert and captured the real deal. I sat there and made the little suckers breed. I'd play Barry White and make sure the turtles made sweet love down by the fire... and then released them when they were ready to hatch. I don't know much about turtles (I had some as a kid) but I know that they don't ask much of their surroundings to survive. Off-Roaders didn't kill the Dinosaurs - we just burn what's left of them in our engines. When the solar system that the Earth is part of falls into itself, who will stand up and demand that someone hold the planets back?

Enviro's crack me up. You can add whacky Enviro's to my growing list of people that piss me off.

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rdc

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Life is full of "what if's" ! I don't think that it is possible to make the enviromentalists or feminists happy, they always seem to complain about something. I find it amusing that MOST of these people have never been to the desert, much less spend a few nights in the elements.

If these people were true enviromentalists, they would walk barefooted, live in caves, eat organic foods, and not wear any clothing. I think that enviromentalists are a bunch of hypocrites.
 

V8Ranger

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very very true. Their enviromentalists until it is inconvenient for them in which case they give in. I know there are quite a few enviromentalists in Cali but its been a while since I've seen a horse drawn carriage on the streets.
 

Paige

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Article was sent to me by some in CORVA -

Martin is right - we have proposed the head start program to try and help the tortoise population - but the FWS and the tortoise people don't want it. I heard that is it difficult for them to breed and if they are disturned in any way they may not - I dunno. The main problem is they haven't tackled the disease - which is killing them off, or done any studies that prove the closed areas are more likely to help the population than the open ones.

It is a mess really. The amount of money lost and no real data to show us where it went or how the recovery of the species is going. In one WEMO meeting - it was shown that several factors, namely predation and the disease are causing the problems with the populations, other actiivies such as OHV and ranching contribute,but not as much - but the only things continually effected are closing of roads and ranches.


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Paige

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This article was a link from the BLM news link ~pretty good article I think.

Article Last Updated: Monday, January 13, 2003 - 11:54:12 PM MST

Doomed To Extinction?
It's too soon to call off efforts to save tortoise
Though situation looks bleak, positive results may take awhile to show up.

Army troops and tanks have been barred from known desert tortoise locations.

Immense amounts of the Mojave Desert have been designated as sanctuary land for the reptile.

Livestock has been kept away. Motorcyclists and all-terrain vehicle riders have been moved from prime tortoise territory.

The slow-moving desert dweller was tagged for federal protection in 1989, and it's been no holds barred since then attempting to save it. More than $100 million has been spent.

Yet the only entity not cooperating is the tortoise itself.

Studies of the desert tortoise population show a continuing steep and ominous decline.

The distressing news raises many questions, beginning with the obvious: Are we wasting time and money trying to save a species destined for extinction with or without our intervention?

The answer to this question and most others is a resounding "Who knows?'

A report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concludes only that tortoises are rapidly disappearing, without pinpointing a major cause of the decline. The tortoise is threatened on many fronts. A spreading respiratory disease, human pollutants and natural enemies are all factors.

But the report does not dismiss protection efforts as worthless. It says that more information is needed to know which efforts are working and which may be ineffective.

Some environmentalists argue that measures to protect the tortoise got a late and half-hearted start. Thus, positive results may take more time to show up. Tortoises live to about age 50 and do not begin reproducing until they are at least 14 years old.

While the bad news may be disheartening, it is simply too soon to call the program a failure.

But it also is a sobering reminder that man's commitment to saving endangered species is not an exact science. That there are no guarantees that a species can be saved once in decline. And that devoting large sums of money to such projects often will be a financial risk.

As a society, we have made species protection a high priority. We want to know that we are successful, or that may change.



<font color=yellow>Paige<font color=yellow>
 

Jack

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Tell them not to be so picky about there mates....

And how dificult can it be, they seem to have overcome this problem with the condore and others that were not simple to get the numbers up, but why wait until there is only a hunderd or so to figure it out? And if that is the case, then right them off, what good do they do there for the area?
 
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