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For Immediate Release, August 27, 2010

Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 or

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Desert Tortoise From Mining

LOS ANGELES— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Desert Tortoise Council filed a lawsuit today against the city of Twentynine Palms for approving the expansion of a mining project on lands that are home to the federally and state-protected desert tortoise. Ignoring wildlife protection laws, the city council failed to require that the desert tortoise be protected and that permits be obtained before  moving forward with the project. Both the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the wildlife agencies charged with protecting desert tortoises, told the city that permits were needed before the mine expansion could go forward.

“Why the city of Twentynine Palms is ignoring state and federal law is mystifying,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center. “All projects that affect desert tortoises must go through the permitting process so that this unique species stands a chance at survival.”

The Granite Mine expansion is proposed on 356 acres, with 178 acres of active mining. Desert tortoises have been documented in areas where active mining is proposed. In the original environmental review, the city recognized the need to comply with state and federal laws and seek a permit for the expansion. The city later did an about-face and simply abandoned plans to acquire a permit, in direct conflict with law.

“The city council should have and must respect the recommendations of the state and federal agencies that are mandated to protect the Mojave desert tortoise,” said Sid Silliman of the Desert Tortoise Council. “It is a matter of due diligence under the law.”

Today’s case was filed in superior court in San Bernardino County.

Having survived tens of thousands of years in California’s deserts, desert tortoises have declined precipitously in recent years. The population crash has been caused by a combination of pressures, including disease; crushing by vehicles; military, industrial and suburban development; habitat degradation; and predation by dogs and ravens. Because of its dwindling numbers, the desert tortoise — California’s official state reptile — is protected under both federal and California endangered species acts.


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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