The Fort Irwin Expansion Plan Threatens the Desert Tortoise
RESOURCES THREATENED BY THE FORT IRWIN EXPANSION
- An additional 87,000 acres (136 square miles) of habitat designated as critical for the survival and recovery of the desert tortoise will be trashed by tanks.
- Since the tortoise was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1989, its numbers have plummeted in the western Mojave, partly due to the loss of habitat to development, mining, grazing, off-roading and military training. The tortoise needs more habitat not less!
- In January 2000, a panel of scientists, including two Army scientists, convened to study the impacts of expanding Fort Irwin, acknowledged that the West Mojave population of the desert tortoise has declined to such a degree since it was listed 6 years earlier 1994 that its status is best described as "endangered," not "threatened," irrespective of the Fort Irwin expansion.
- The popular desert tortoise is California's state reptile. Once common, the tortoise plays a major role in its desert ecosystem, and is viewed by biologists as a key indicator species that is a barometer of the overall health of the desert ecosystem.
- Funding for mitigation for the proposed expansion is woefully inadequate compared to that required of non-defense agencies and private companies. The year 2000 expansion legislation authorized only $75 million for mitigation for all impacts yet the cost of acquiring replacement tortoise habitat alone could be well over $250 million. Land use restrictions and research would need yet additional funding.