Last year, more than 250 desert tortoises died after a disastrous attempt by the Army to relocate 600 of the imperiled tortoises to make way for a tank-warfare training area in the California desert. Now, the Army and the Bureau of Land Management are rushing forward with a plan to move over 1,200 more tortoises. Originally the public was given only a tiny, 15-day window of opportunity to express itself on this lethal proposal, but you stepped up and inundated the Bureau of Land Management with more than 24,000 letters. The deadline has now been extended until August 31, 2009. And we still need your help..
The translocation effort and other threats are pushing the tortoise closer to extinction. Desert tortoise translocation has never been attempted on such a large scale. Even so-called "successful" small-scale translocation projects have had a more than 20-percent mortality rate. Having survived tens of thousands of years in California's deserts, desert tortoise numbers have declined precipitously in recent years in the face of disease, crushing by vehicles, military base expansion, suburban sprawl, habitat degradation, and predation by feral dogs and ravens.
Speak up for the tortoises today by sending a letter to the Bureau of Land Management. It’s still essential that we get a strong public response questioning the need for the translocation, demanding a full environmental review and assurances that more tortoises will not die as a result of this controversial project.