Federal agencies team up to conserve Mojave Desert turtles – VVNG.com

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San Bernardino County, California – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army consulted on a process for effective implementation of ecosystem and conservation actions for the benefit of the federally endangered Mojave Desert Tortoise in the West of the Mojave Desert.

The consultation, conducted under Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, provides additional flexibility for military training within the National Army Training Center and Fort Irwin.

The military will fund desert tortoise recovery actions in areas of critical environmental concern managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Additionally, the Service, Army, and Bureau will work with other partners, such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and local conservation groups that manage desert tortoise habitat, to implement species-specific recovery.

(Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) commonly known as the Mojave Desert Tortoise. Photo by Desert Tortoise Recovery Office, USFWS)

“We are thrilled to announce this initiative that balances military preparedness and species recovery,” said Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office field supervisor Scott Sobiech. “Fort Irwin has always worked to protect sensitive species and their habitat, and we are grateful for their continued commitment to conservation.”

“The U.S. Army and Fish and Wildlife Service continue to collaborate through the installation commander’s comprehensive integrated plan for conservation and natural resource management,” said Fort Irwin wildlife biologist David Davis. “This plan focuses on ecosystem-based management that shows the interrelationships between individual components of natural resource management and mission requirements affecting Fort Irwin’s natural resources. Because wildlife does not read boundary signs, it is critical that we develop working partnerships with the Service, BLM, and other Department of Defense installations.

Proposed recovery actions include enhancing desert tortoise populations through habitat restoration, better managing threats in critical habitat, reducing other sources of mortality such as roadkill and strategic use of population increase.

(A juvenile desert tortoise that was transferred from an expansion area to 29 Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the spring of 2017.)

“BLM is pleased to be actively involved in the Desert Tortoise Recovery Partnership to achieve targeted conservation goals,” said Field Manager Katrina Symons, Bureau of Land Management, Field Office of Barstow. “This partnership will implement desert tortoise recovery actions, such as habitat restoration, on a larger scale than any one agency can do alone.”

The desert tortoise lives in a variety of habitats ranging from sandy plains to rocky foothills, including alluvial fans, washes, and canyons. It was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1980 due to high mortality rates and habitat fragmentation, degradation and loss.

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