Save the tortoise!

The purpose of this page is to provide information and analysis of the proposed West Mojave Management Plan particularly as it impacts on the remaining populations of the threatened desert tortoise.

What is the West Mojave Plan?

According to the 1994 USFWS Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan, the West Mojave Plan will implement desert tortoise recovery in the West Mojave Desert Tortoise Recovery Unit. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) describes the West Mojave Plan (WMP) as "an attempt at defining a regional strategy for conserving plant and animal species and their habitats and to define an efficient, equitable, and cost-effective process for complying with threatened and endangered species laws."

The Plan consists of two components: a Federal component that will amend the existing 1980 California Desert Conservation Area Plan, and a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that will cover development on private lands.

The BLM and 27 other federal and state agencies, cities and counties are planning to address the management of the desert tortoise and a number of other special status plants and animals found within the 9.4 million acre West Mojave Planning Area in the proposed West Mojave Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). Their stated goal is to provide conservation solutions for all the plants and animals in a single plan, while allowing development to occur "in a responsible manner." 

On January 9, 2006 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalized its Biological Opinion for the Federal (BLM) portion of the West Mojave Plan. After 15 years of planning effort, on March 13, 2006 the BLM signed the Record Of Decision for the Final Version of its Plan.

On August 14, a coalition of conservation groups filed suit in Federal court to overturn the BLM's West Mojave and NECO Plans and the FWS Biological Opinion.   The groups cite the failure of the plans to "protect private property, conservation lands and endangered wildlife from off-road vehicles across 7.1 million acres of the California Desert Conservation Area in Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Kern and Inyo counties." The groups seek full implementation of the conservation measures required to preserve and recover the desert tortoise as outlined in the 1994 Desert Tortoise (Mojave Population) Recovery Plan.

The HCP component of the Plan is still being formulated and is expected to take at least 2 more years.   The California Department of Fish and Game are working with local and County jurisdictions to develop conservation measures that will be sufficient for the HCP to fulfill the "fully mitigated" requirement of the California Endangered Species Act.

Recent significant events include:

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