A population of desert tortoise that occurs in the desert regions from St. George, Utah through California has been threatened with extinction since 1990. In 1994, the Fish and Wildlife Service published a comprehensive Recovery Plan, written by leading desert tortoise scientists, that provides a clear path for desert tortoise recovery. Sadly, few of the recommendations in the existing 1994 Recovery Plan have been implemented, and the tortoise continues to decline throughout its range.
Now, in the waning days of the Bush administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing a revised recovery plan for the tortoise that dilutes or demolishes many of the original recommendations of the 1994 plan. The proposed plan is basically a "plan to plan," offering very little on-the-ground guidance to saving the imperiled tortoise. It identifies no clear path to recovery and fails to address some of the most pressing desert tortoise threats -- including translocation, grazing, and off-road vehicles. Pandering to local development interests, it instead allows local "stakeholder" groups, not desert tortoise scientists, to identify recovery actions.
With no clear roadmap to recovery, this proposed revised recovery plan will definitely delay recovery for this charismatic desert icon. It will likely cause further declines in tortoise populations because it allows threatening activities to continue to kill the animals and damage their habitat.
You can make a difference for the desert tortoise by writing to the Fish and Wildlife Service right now and requesting that it take the time to rework the proposed recovery plan and revise it to actually achieve desert tortoise recovery.