Bureau of Land Management (Las Vegas, Nv.).: Keep the Desert Tortoise Rescue Center Open.
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Bureau of Land Management (Las Vegas, Nv.).: Keep the Desert Tortoise Rescue Center Open.

    1. thomas brown
    2. Petition by

      thomas brown

      las vegas, NV

If this center closes the Desert Tortoise will become exstinct in the Las Vegas valley. Here is the A P article: 

Desert tortoise faces threat from its own refuge as BLM closes Vegas rescue center

 Published: AUGUST 25, 3:56 PM ET



LAS VEGAS — For decades, the vulnerable desert tortoise has led a sheltered existence.

Developers have taken pains to keep the animal safe. It’s been protected from meddlesome hikers by the threat of prison time. And wildlife officials have set the species up on a sprawling conservation reserve outside Las Vegas.

But the pampered desert dweller now faces a threat from the very people who have nurtured it.

Federal funds are running out at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they’ve been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990.

“It’s the lesser of two evils, but it’s still evil,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service desert tortoise recovery coordinator Roy Averill-Murray during a visit to the soon-to-be-shuttered reserve at the southern edge of the Las Vegas Valley last week.

Biologists went about their work examining tortoises for signs of disease as Averill-Murray walked among the reptile pens. But the scrubby 220-acre refuge area will stop taking new animals in the coming months. Most that arrive in the fall will simply be put down, late-emerging victims of budget problems that came from the same housing bubble that put a neighborhood of McMansions at the edge of the once-remote site.

The Bureau of Land Management has paid for the holding and research facility with fees imposed on developers who disturb tortoise habitat on public land. As the housing boom swept through southern Nevada in the 2000s, the tortoise budget swelled. But when the recession hit, the housing market contracted, and the bureau and its local government partners began struggling to meet the center’s $1 million annual budget.

Housing never fully recovered, and the federal mitigation fee that developers pay has brought in just $290,000 during the past 11 months. Local partners, which collect their own tortoise fees, have pulled out of the project.

“With the money going down and more and more tortoises coming in, it never would have added up,” said BLM spokeswoman Hillerie Patton.

Back at the conservation center, a large refrigerator labeled “carcass freezer” hummed in the desert sun as scientists examined the facility’s 1,400 inhabitants to find those hearty enough to release into the wild. Officials expect to euthanize more than half the animals in the coming months in preparation for closure at the end of 2014.

The desert tortoise is a survivor that has toddled around the Southwest for 200 million years. But ecologists say the loss of the conservation center represents a harmful blow in southern Nevada for an animal that has held onto some unfortunate evolutionary quirks that impede its coexistence with strip malls, new homes and solar plants.

Laws to protect the panicky plodders ban hikers from picking them up, since the animals are likely dehydrate themselves by voiding a year’s worth of stored water when handled. When they’re moved, they nearly always attempt to trudge back to their burrows, foiling attempts to keep them out of harm’s way. They’re also beset by respiratory infections and other illnesses.

No more than 100,000 tortoises are thought to survive in the habitat where millions once burrowed across parts of Utah, California, Arizona and Nevada.

The animals were once so abundant that tourists would scoop them up as souvenirs. Many quickly realized the shy grass-eaters don’t make ideal pets. (For one thing, they can live for 100 years.) And once the species was classified as threatened on the endangered species list, people rushed to give them back.

Former pets make up the majority of the tortoises at the conservation center, where they spend their days staring down jackrabbits and ducking out of the sun into protective PVC piping tucked into the rocky desert floor. Most of these animals are not suitable for release, either infected with disease or otherwise too feeble to survive.

Averill-Murray looks as world-weary as the animals he studies. He wants to save at least the research function of the center and is looking for alternative funding sources.

“It’s not the most desirable model to fund recovery — on the back of tortoise habitat,” he said.


Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier .

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Recent signatures


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    Reasons for signing

    • Noelle Glines-Bovio FAIRFIELD, CA
      • 5 months ago

      I use to work there at that facility and I have worked in the Mojave Desert on tortoise projects. The funding that was designed for that facility should not be re-appropriated. The center needs better management and needs to be managed like science and education facility. That has changed in the past few years, sadly. Also I have donated my own tortoise when I move out of state. I would like her back, but laws will not allow it.

    • Dawnaly Weeden SPRINGFIELD, OR
      • 5 months ago

      Animal conservation and rehabilitation is of utmost importance. It is our responsibility to take care of the ones we harmed.

    • Lisa Carson FULLERTON, CA
      • 7 months ago

      Because every species deserves a chance to continue to live, and it is us humans who have destroyed or disrupted their environment and caused them to diminish in numbers.

    • Corinna Alberigi BAKERSFIELD, CA
      • 7 months ago

      This is awful, these animals are dependent on people to help them survive and now those same people will kill them. Maybe some politians can skip a vacation or fancy dinner and use that money to do the right thing for these animals.

    • Brian Wilson WATERTOWN, SD
      • 7 months ago

      I love the desert tortoise...


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