For Immediate Release, October 18, 2007
Ileene Anderson, Staff Biologist, (323) 654-5943
Lisa Belenky, Staff Attorney, (415) 436-9682 x 307
New Fish and Wildlife Service “Recovery” Plan
Will Drive Desert Tortoise Closer to Extinction
RENO, Nev.– The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a new draft “recovery” plan yesterday for the threatened desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Despite the fact that desert tortoise populations have continued to crash since the release of the original recovery plan in 1994, the new plan provides even less protection for the tortoise.
The Mojave population of the desert tortoise was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1990; its recovery plan was published in 1994. But the Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management have failed to implement most of the 1994 plan.
“If the original recovery plan had been implemented, the desert tortoise would not be in the dire straits it’s in now,” says Ileene Anderson, a biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “What the desert tortoise desperately needs for recovery is on-the-ground action, not another plan that will sit on the shelf. This plan takes giant steps backwards from the existing recovery plan — it’s an extinction plan, not a recovery plan.”
The new “recovery” plan relies on unproven recovery strategy that is sparse on science and relies largely on adaptive management. It fails to tackle solutions to many of the scientifically recognized threats to desert tortoises, including disease, roads, off-road vehicles, grazing, weeds, increased fire risk, and other causes of habitat degradation.
“This draft plan focuses primarily on additional research and monitoring actions rather than ways to stop known causes of habitat destruction and tortoise death, including continued off-road vehicle use and grazing in designated critical habitat,” says Lisa Belenky, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We know what threatens the desert tortoise, and the Fish and Wildlife Service should act immediately to address those threats.”
The new draft desert tortoise recovery plan is found at http://www.fws.gov/nevada/desert_tortoise/dt_reports.html