California’s official state reptile, the desert tortoise, is under attack yet again. However, this time the attack isn’t based on disease or predators. Despite the tortoise’s protection under both federal and state endangered species acts, the Bureau of Land Management has issued a proposal to transfer 365,906 acres of the tortoise’s natural habitat (the Western Mojave) to the U.S. Marine Corps for bombing, tank training and live fire testing and activities.
The Marine Corps has justified this requisition under the pretenses of national security. Never heard that one before. Yet the Marine Corps have issued no further comments or explanation regarding the land.
The desert tortoise has survived over one million years in the deserts of California and numbers have been crashing due to both natural factors and human interference. Experimental relocation of the animals has resulted in tragic mortality rates.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently put forward a recovery plan that would weaken the little protection the desert tortoise already has. The proposal is vague and the standards for a recovery plan are anything but acceptable.
Scientists have recently identified the Western Mojave desert tortoise as genetically distinct from its relatives elsewhere, making conservation efforts all that more important.