Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 18, 2018

Contact: Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449,

Conservation Groups, Citizens Oppose Clark County Effort to Gut Desert Tortoise Protections

LAS VEGAS— More than 3,300 citizen letters have been sent to Clark County commissioners opposing an effort to allow real estate developers to destroy desert tortoise habitat, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act. The letters include one in opposition from nine local and national environmental groups.

Clark County is pursuing a public lands bill in Congress that would auction almost 40,000 acres—62 square miles— of public land for sprawling development, give away land to utilities, and gut Endangered Species Act protections for desert tortoises.

The commission is expected to vote on a resolution Tuesday in support of the bill.

“This bill will be a disaster for desert tortoises just so developers can make another quick buck from desert sprawl,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Clark County is also peddling a dangerous precedent that would allow politicians, rather than scientists, to decide the fate of endangered species around the country. That’s not what the public wants.”

Current federal law calls for any proposal for expanded development surrounding Las Vegas to undergo a rigorous environmental review from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with input from the additional scientific experts. The review would evaluate potential harm to the desert tortoise and require public input and disclosure of those harms. The review would enumerate the county’s responsibilities to make up for harm from development to ensure it does not unduly impact the viability of the desert tortoise. The county instead wants to cut the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out of the equation, specifying its own inadequate measures to allegedly make up for the habitat destruction.

The purpose of the county’s resolution is to enshrine this attack on desert tortoise protections into federal law by convincing the Nevada congressional delegation to introduce and pass the bill in Congress. This resolution, like numerous bills that have been proposed by congressional Republicans over the past year, subverts the Endangered Species Act through exemptions and carveouts.

“Clark County is pursuing a reckless course of action which threatens not just the desert tortoise, but the Endangered Species Act itself,” said Donnelly. “This is a bill straight out of the Donald Trump playbook designed to gut bedrock environmental laws and enrich developers and polluters.”

Groups signing the letter include the Desert Tortoise Council, the Endangered Species Coalition, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Sloan Canyon, Friends of Gold Butte, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Basin and Range Watch, and the Amargosa Conservancy.

The Clark County commission will vote on the proposal on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S Grand Central Parkway, Las Vegas.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

More press releases