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Action timeline

1997 – The Center and allies appealed a Bureau of Land Management decision to issue a grazing permit for the South Vekol Grazing Allotment — an area containing important desert tortoise habitat.

1998 – The Center appealed multiple grazing allotments, maintaining that continued livestock grazing on desert tortoise habitat would significantly impair the threatened species’ recovery.

1999 – After the Center and allies gave notice of intent to sue the National Park Service, the Park Service shut down the largest cinder mine within the National Park system, which was operating illegally. The Cinder Cima Mine, located within the Mojave National Preserve Park — prime desert tortoise habitat — had been functioning without a permit since 1995.

2000 – In response to public pressure and a threat to sue by the Center, the Bureau of Land Management permanently cancelled all livestock grazing on the 276,125-acre Granite Mountains Grazing Allotment, marking yet another significant win for the threatened desert tortoise.

2000 – In response to a suit filed by the Center and allies, the National Park Service rejected an appeal from the operators of the Cima Cinder Mine. The mine was ordered to cease all mining operations within the new Mojave National Preserve.

2001 – Through a landmark legal settlement with the Bureau of Land Management, the Center and allies won protections against livestock grazing for 1.9 million acres of the California Desert Conservation Area. The agency was also required to close 18,000 acres of the Mojave Desert to off-road vehicle use and halt springtime cattle grazing on 248,000 acres of prime desert tortoise habitat.

2003 – The Center and allies filed a lawsuit against the Bureau for its plan to open as much as 1,000 miles of new roads for off-road vehicle enthusiasts across 3.2 million acres of desert tortoise and other wildlife habitat in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Kern and Inyo counties.

2004 – The Center and allies filed a lawsuit against an ill-conceived test racetrack in the middle of prime desert tortoise habitat. The settlement for this lawsuit set aside significant acreage in perpetuity for the conservation of the desert tortoise.

2006 – The Center, in cooperation with a broad coalition of allies including private property owners and public employees, filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management for failing to protect private property, conservation lands, and endangered wildlife — including the desert tortoise — from off-road vehicles across 7.1 million acres of the California Desert Conservation Area in Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Kern and Inyo counties.

March 17, 2008 – The Center and allies filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of the Army’s National Training Center and Fort Irwin over plans to relocate hundreds of desert tortoises to accommodate the expansion of Fort Irwin. Our notice requested that the relocation plan be improved by reducing the number of relocated tortoises, making sure only healthy tortoises are moved into healthy populations, and improving the habitat conditions of the relocation area.

July 2, 2008 – The Center and Desert Survivors sued the Army and the Bureau of Land Management over the relocation of hundreds of desert tortoises to accommodate the expansion of Fort Irwin.

August 4, 2008 – The Fish and Wildlife Service released a new draft “recovery” plan that weakened rather than strengthened protections for the tortoise.

September 17, 2008 – The Bureau of Land Management proposed to transfer 365,906 acres of Mojave Desert land near Twentynine Palms, California — habitat for the desert tortoise — to the U.S. Marine Corps for bomb training, tank training, and other “live fire” exercises.

October 10, 2008 – In response to the Center and Desert Survivors’ July 2008 lawsuit, Fort Irwin officials suspended their disastrous tortoise relocation program, which had by that time resulted in the deaths of more than 90 relocated and resident tortoises.

December 2, 2008 – The Center appealed a Bureau of Land Management decision opening two illegal off-road vehicle routes in eastern Kern County, California, where desert tortoises roam. The decision allowed access to sensitive lands in the Rand Mountains, an area that has already suffered from rampant off-road vehicle use.

December 9, 2008 – The Center filed a notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service for the agencies’ failure to protect the desert tortoise, California condor and other species in crafting a management plan for huge tracts of public land near the Grand Canyon.

December 23, 2008 – The Center called on the inspector general of the Department of the Interior to investigate political meddling in the revision process of the desert tortoise’s new draft “recovery” plan, released in August. We asked that the draft revised plan be rewritten to remedy that political interference, so that the tortoise would have a sound and science-based recovery plan.

February 10, 2009 – The Center sent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management a notice of intent to sue over violations of the Endangered Species Act that were hurting the endangered Moapa dace and threatened desert tortoise. The violations related to decisions made by the agencies concerning the Kane Springs Valley Groundwater Development, the Coyote Springs Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, and a 2006 Memorandum of Agreement for groundwater withdrawals affecting the Warm Springs area of the Muddy River.

May 13, 2009 – The Center filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Bureau and the Service over a faulty land-management plan for east-central Nevada that would allow activities such as off-road vehicle use, grazing, mining and energy production to harm the desert tortoise and other species.

July 31, 2009 – The Bureau of Land Management and Army proposed a new desert tortoise translocation project that would move more than 1,000 tortoises — despite the fact that hundreds died in past translocation efforts.

September 11, 2009 – After more than 23,000 Center-supporter comments sent in opposing the new translocation, the Bureau halted its new tortoise-moving plans.

January 4, 2010 – In response to a Center appeal, an administrative law judge for the Interior Board of Land Appeals rejected a Bureau of Land Management decision to open two off-road vehicle routes in desert tortoise habitat in eastern Kern County.

August 27, 2010 – The Center and the Desert Tortoise Council filed a lawsuit against the city of Twentynine Palms, California, for approving the expansion of the Granite Mine on lands home to the desert tortoise.

June 28, 2011 – Scientists released a study showing that desert tortoises in California and the Southwest are two different species instead of one, meaning each species is even rarer than previously thought.

April 30, 2012 – The Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Clark County, Nev., for not taking required steps to protect the desert tortoise from grazing in southern Nevada.

November 1, 2012 – Conservation groups filed a second lawsuit today challenging San Bernardino County for failing to provide environmental review and violating its own groundwater ordinance on the Cadiz water project.

Photo © Robin Silver