Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 2:19-20a
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

Tortoise Consortium

Michael J. Connor
Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, 4067 Mission Inn Ave, Riverside, CA 92501;

In January 1999, members of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee (, Desert Tortoise Council (, and the California Turtle and Tortoise Club ( met with representatives from other interest groups, such as California Native Plants Society, Desert Protective League, and the Sierra Club, to strategize ways of propelling implementation of the 1994 Desert Tortoise (Mojave Population) Recovery Plan in California. Management of the desert tortoise remains piecemeal and despite being listed under the Endangered Species Act over 11 years ago, the tortoise continues to decline and is now widely recognized to be at risk of extinction over much of its former range in California.

The western populations of the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, were given an emergency listing as "endangered" under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1989 and a final ruling of "threatened" was published in 1990. Following a lawsuit compelling the Secretary of the Interior to act, Critical Habitat was designated for the species in February 1994. In June 1994, the USFWS published the Desert Tortoise (Mojave Population) Recovery Plan. At that time most of the desert tortoise Critical Habitat in California was under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Implementation of the Recovery Plan was expected to occur through three BLM-led regional desert conservation planning efforts that were underway. These were known as the West Mojave (WMP), Northern and Eastern Colorado (NECO), and Northern and Eastern Mojave (NEMO) Coordinated Management Plans. However, the planning efforts have bogged down in sundry political quagmires and none of the regional plans are yet complete.

The three tortoise groups formed an alliance—the Tortoise Consortium—to support a representative to participate in the various planning efforts that are under way, to provide information and analysis, and to act as a watchdog on other unfolding issues such as the proposed southwestern expansion of Fort Irwin which now threatens 182 square miles of designated Critical Habitat and 15%-20% of the West Mojave Desert's tortoises. The tortoise groups chose as their representative Michael J. Connor, the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee's Executive Director.

The Consortium maintains an E-mail list that provides updates on the planning efforts and developments that impact on the tortoise, as well as notices on related legal and political events. To receive the mailings send your name and E-mail address to Background documents on the West Mojave plan and on the proposed southwestern expansion of Fort Irwin can be found at