Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 16, 2019

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

Nevada's Clark County Wants Protected Tortoise Habitat Used for Off-road Vehicles

LAS VEGAS— Clark County commissioners voted unanimously today to urge Congress to designate nearly 110,000 acres of public lands for off-road vehicle use, even though it includes critical habitat for the imperiled desert tortoise.

About 27,000 acres of the tortoise’s federally protected habitat would be included in the proposed Nelson Hills Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area on lands surrounding Las Vegas.

“This is an outrageous attack on Nevada’s state reptile,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The commission wants to permanently designate protected areas as off-highway vehicle sacrifice zones. These elegant tortoises really have no defense against a swarm of vehicles racing through the desert.”

Critical habitats are deemed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be essential to the survival and recovery of imperiled species like desert tortoises. They are afforded a higher level of protection than normal public lands.

The OHV-area proposal is a part of a larger effort by Clark County to convince Congress to dramatically expand the urban growth boundary around Las Vegas. The commission also wants Congress to sell more than 40,000 acres of public land to allow sprawl development. This would push off-road vehicle riders farther out, leading the commission to ask Congress to designate the new OHV areas.

“We’re incredibly disappointed in the commissioners, some of whom have been champions for our public lands and wildlife,” Donnelly said. “This proposal makes a mockery of the Endangered Species Act. It would be chaos if Congress modified critical habitat every time a county requested it. Nevada’s congressional delegation must reject this wrong-headed proposal and protect the desert tortoise.”

Desert Tortoise

Desert tortoise photo courtesy USFWS. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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