The briefing points outlined below are meant to form a guide to the potential impact of the proposed Fort Irwin expansion on the threatened Desert Tortoise. The author welcomes your comments/additions.
National Training Center, Fort Irwin Proposes to Destroy
Desert Tortoise Critical Habitat
- April 16, 1999 Army announced a plan for a massive southwest expansion of the National Training Center, Fort Irwin directly into designated Desert Tortoise Critical Habitat.
- The expansion violates the April 2, 1990 United States Fish and Wildlife Service listing that the Mojave population of the Desert Tortoises is a threatened species.
- The expansion involves major destruction of Critical Habitat designated in the February 8, 1994 Determination of Critical Habitat for the Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise; Final Rule published (50 CFR Part 17).
- The expansion threatens to wreck the October 30, 1994 Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan.
- No amount of research or mitigation could replace this Critical Habitat.
- The 1999 proposed NTC expansion would effectively destroy the Superior-Cronese Desert Wildlife Management Area (DWMA).
Proposed Fort Irwin Expansion into the Superior-Cronese DWMA
The southwestern expansion (gray) cuts deep into the heart of the designated Superior-Cronese DWMA (white). Existing military installations are shown in blue.
- Why is the Superior-Cronese DWMA so important to the tortoise?
- Tortoises persist in some numbers in the Superior Valley because it is remote and is one of the least disturbed areas of the Western Mojave Desert. It includes the largest region of contiguous public sections of any DWMA.
- According to the 1998 Tortoise Sign surveys conducted for the WMCMP, the Superior Valley holds some of the highest density tortoise populations left in the West Mojave Desert.
- The Superior-Cronese DWMA is the only DWMA in California that is likely to support the Recovery Plan target of 10 female tortoises per square mile.
- The Superior-Cronese DWMA serves as a bridge between the East and West Mojave Desert Tortoise populations.
- Elimination of the Superior-Cronese DWMA would accelerate the extirpation of the Desert Tortoise from the West Mojave
Southern Portion of NTC, Fort Irwin
The 1999 proposed expansion (outlined in black) extends further southwest into Critical Habitat than did the withdrawn 1991 proposal (red).
- September 9, 1991 USFWS published Draft Jeopardy Biological Opinion On the Proposed Expansion of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California (1-6-91-F-41). Recommended that any expansion occur to the east.
- 1991 Draft Jeopardy Biological Opinion reported that 50% of the desert tortoises still found on the Fort Irwin lands occur in the southwestern area where training activity has been constrained. These constrained areas would be opened up and disturbed if the proposed NTC expansion occurs leading to further loss in habitat and an increased take of tortoises.
- What has changed since 1991? The Desert Tortoise has continued to decline. If the Army is allowed to circumvent the Endangered Species Act and railroad this expansion through, the loss of Critical Habitat will accelerate the extinction of this key species and an animal much liked by the general public
- The 1999 proposed NTC expansion would effectively rewrite the DWMAs and drastically increase the expense of recovery. Taxpayers will be left to pay for this in perpetuity!
- February 26, 1999 GAO issued report "Military Readiness, Full Training Benefits From Army's Combat Training Centers Are Not Being Realized."
- Army launched this current project without formal consultation with BLM or USFWS.
- There is serious concern that a rider will be attached to some extraneous bill that will allow the proposed expansion without the required NEPA and CEQA processes.