Save the tortoise!




Coalition Letter to Defense Authorization Bill Conferees

October 11, 2001

Honorable House and Senate Armed Services Conferees:

As American conservationists, we want our military to be prepared to defend our beautiful country. Meeting the need for national security, however, need not come at the expense of endangered species and environmental protections.

The proposed legislation for the expansion of Fort Irwin in H.R. 2586, the House Defense Authorization bill will imperil the survival and recovery of federally protected endangered species, including the desert tortoise and Lane Mountain milkvetch. It would end the conservation of 110,000 acres of spectacular and botanically diverse wildlands in the California Desert, including lands Congress has identified as meriting wilderness protection.

We urge the conferees to incorporate the following changes to the current version of the Fort Irwin legislation to better protect our natural legacy in the California Desert and help ensure mitigation for these losses while supporting military readiness:

  • Establish a core reserve for the Western Mojave tortoise by expanding the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area to include the adjacent Western Rand Mountains Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Routes in the Western Rand Mountains ACEC will be closed and the area managed for tortoise recovery.
  • Conserve the Lane Mountain Milkvetch by establishing a Lane Mountain Milkvetch ACEC on lands both within and outside the proposed Fort Irwin expansion area to capture populations throughout the range of the species. The ACEC will be managed for Lane Mountain Milkvetch conservation and recovery, and provide access for research across the species' range.
  • Authorize full funding for compliance with all environmental laws and at least $327 million for up-front mitigation measures to offset the impacts to listed species, including: habitat acquisition, route closures, mineral withdrawals, grazing allotment retirements and the hiring of additional BLM resource protection staff.
  • Designate Cady Mountains Wilderness Study Area (WSA), Kingston Range WSA, Death Valley National Park 17 WSA, Great Falls WSA, Soda Mountains WSA and the remainder of the Avawatz WSA as wildernesses.
  • To promote desert tortoise conservation, change the land use designation in the Johnson and Stoddard Valleys from open to limited use. Motorized vehicles should be restricted to designated routes. Route designation on desert tortoise critical habitat should be restricted by legislation to a maximum of 18 miles per township, and a maximum of 24 miles per township in other habitat areas.
  • Withdraw desert tortoise critical habitat and Lane Mountain milkvetch habitat in the west Mojave from mineral entry.
  • Prohibit changes to the current use restrictions of UTM 90 lands for desert tortoise conservation, pending a new needs analysis.
  • Include a reversionary clause that would mandate that the lands be returned to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) if the expansion proposal does not comply with all applicable environmental and cultural resource protection laws within two years.

We urge you to work to change the Fort Irwin expansion provisions of the Defense Authorization legislation to mitigate the losses of California Desert wildlands, endangered species and habitat that would result if this expansion moves forward.


Terry Wold, Regional Conservation Representative, The Wilderness Society, 4077 Mission Inn Ave. Riverside, CA 92501

Elden Hughes, Chair, Sierra Club Desert Committee, 14045 Honeysuckle Lane Whittier, CA 90604

Johanna Wald, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council, 71 Stevenson St., Ste. 1825, San Francisco, CA 94105

Mary Minette, Legislative Director, League of Conservation Voters, 1920 L Street, NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20036

Brock Evans, Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition 1101 14th Ave. NW, Suite 1400, Washington, DC 20005

Michael J. Connor, Ph.D. Executive Director, Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, 4067 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA 92501

Steve Tabor, President, Desert Survivors, PO Box 20991, Oakland, CA 94620-0991

Terry Weiner, Conservation Coordinator, Desert Protective Council, PO Box 3635, San Diego, CA 92163

Robert Dewey, Vice-President, Government Relations and External Affairs Defenders of Wildlife, 1101 Fourteenth St., NW Washington, DC 20005

Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist, Center for Biological Diversity, POB 493, Idyllwild CA 92549

Paul Spitler, Executive Director, California Wilderness Coalition, 2655 Portage Bay East, Suite 5 Davis, CA 95616

Ileene Anderson, Botanist, California Native Plant Society, 2733 Cardwell Place, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Jim Dodson, Director, California Desert Protection League 43904 N. Galion Ave, Lancaster, CA 93536

Sean Smith, Campaign Director, Public Lands Bluewater Network 300 Broadway, Suite 28 San Francisco, CA 94133

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