Agencies team up on planning for threatened desert tortoise

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Authorities at local, state and federal levels are collaborating on conservation plans for the threatened desert tortoise.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is setting its General Conservation Plan for the Mojave Desert tortoise, Today's News-Herald reported (

Mohave County supervisors met recently about the effort, and staffers were to help the federal agency and the Arizona Game and Fish Department in the project.

Wildlife Service biologist Brian J. Wooldridge said landowners who sign onto the plan would be protected from legal action if they follow mitigation measures but still harm a tortoise during property development.

"We have a really good working relationship with Arizona Game and Fish . and we work really hard to promote that partnership, and then, when we have Mohave County on board, all working together, this shows that efforts like this can be a good thing," Wooldridge said.

Development is among the primary causes of the tortoise's population decline. There are between five and 60 adult tortoises per square mile compared with at least 200 in the late 1950s.

"People started paying attention in the 1980s, and that's when population trends were noticed and threats were assessed," Wooldridge said.

The plan's final draft is expected this summer.

"Tortoises are so long-lived, living up to 100 years we think, so some of the positive results of what we are doing may not be seen for a while," he said.

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