California

SAN JOSE, California – Defenders of Wildlife, the Desert Tortoise Council and the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee applaud the California Fish and Game Commission’s unanimous 4-0 decision today to list the Mojave desert tortoise as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). 

“The Commission’s decision that uplisting is warranted accurately reflects the dire status of our state reptile and its urgent need for additional protections,” said Jeff Aardahl, senior California representative for Defenders of Wildlife and co-author of the uplisting petition. “The Mojave desert tortoise serves as an indicator of the health of our desert ecosystem, and both the species and its habitats are facing a myriad of serious threats.” 

The three conservation organizations first petitioned the Commission to uplist the Mojave desert tortoise in March 2020. Later that year, the Commission found that consideration of uplisting was warranted and tasked the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to prepare a status review of the species within 12 months, along with a recommendation on listing status.

“We have to recognize that desert tortoises are not an annual species that can rapidly recover from population declines,” said Michael Tuma, PhD, Desert Tortoise Council board member. “With their long generation times, slow growth and low reproductive rates, tortoise populations will need decades to recover from population declines, and that’s only if we can provide an environment with sustained relief from threats. Listing the species as endangered under CESA will give them the best chance at successful recovery.”

In 1984, Defenders of Wildlife and other groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the desert tortoise under the Endangered Species Act. In 1989, the species was listed as threatened by the California Fish and Game Commission, and in 1990, it was listed as threatened under the federal ESA. 

“Our fifty years of experience at the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area in the western Mojave desert showcases the effectiveness of protecting large tracts of contiguous land free of key threats such as off-highway vehicle use and livestock grazing,” said Roger Dale, president of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee. “We are hopeful that the uplisting will attract additional resources for proven conservation measures such as land acquisition, fencing, habitat restoration and permanent stewardship of preserve areas.” 

Despite its protections at the state and federal level, the desert tortoise is closer to extinction than ever before. The change in listing is necessary as it reflects the direness of the desert tortoise’s decline and may generate more awareness and protection for the species. 

The threats facing the Mojave desert tortoise include habitat loss from development, military base expansion and training, off-highway vehicle use and livestock grazing. Other risks to its survival include disease, utility maintenance projects, invasive species, and extended droughts associated with climate change. 

 

###

 

Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

The Desert Tortoise Council is a non-profit organization comprised of hundreds of professionals and laypersons who share a common concern for wild desert tortoises and a commitment to advancing the public’s understanding of desert tortoise species. The mission of the Desert Tortoise Council, which was established in 1975 to promote conservation of tortoises in the deserts of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, is to assure the perpetual survival of viable populations of desert tortoises throughout their historical ranges. For more information, visit http://www.deserttortoise.org/.

The Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, Inc. (DTPC), founded in 1974, is dedicated to the recovery and conservation of the desert tortoise and other protected species inhabiting the Mojave and western Sonoran deserts. In close collaboration with State and federal agencies, the DTPC accomplishes its mission through land acquisition and stewardship, environmental education and outreach, and support of scientific research. For more information, visit http://www.tortoise-tracks.org/.

For over 75 years, Defenders of Wildlife has remained dedicated to protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come. To learn more, please visit https://defenders.org/newsroom or follow us on X @Defenders.

  

Media Contact

Communications Specialist
jcovey@defenders.org

Related

Image
Painted Desert
Image
Desert Tortoise

News

Image
Blackfeet Nation Birch Creek - hay bails in foreground
Washington, DC

Defenders Supports New Bill Expanding Investments in Soil Health and Wildlife Habitat on Private Land

Defenders of Wildlife today announced its support for H.R. 8754 introduced by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA). If passed, the Saving Our Interconnected Lives (SOIL) Act will amend the Farm Bill to encourage agricultural producers to voluntarily conserve soil and wildlife habitat on their land by prioritizing applications for projects that would address both concerns under the Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
Image
2010.12.27 - Florida Manatee - Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge - Florida - Keith Ramos - USFWS
Washington, DC

Defenders Opposes “Breathtakingly Awful” Attempt to Gut Endangered Species Act with Appalling Rewrite

Defenders of Wildlife opposes one of the worst-ever attempts to gut the Endangered Species Act, the “ESA Amendments Act of 2024.” Sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, the draft bill being heard today in the Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries demolishes many of the core tenets of the landmark conservation bill, warps its foundational reliance on best available science and increases the potential for political interference.