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BLM's Way of Protecting the Tortoise
By Don Fife,

The Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been turned into a tool for environmental racketeering by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and their radical environmentalist friends. We support Sheriff Gary Penrod in revoking the BLM Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for law enforcement in the California desert. Such outrageous actions of the BLM as those against Cattleman Dave Fisher should be reversed.

The BLM is trying to shut down Mr. Fisher's family ranch, using the excuse that the cattle compete with the tortoise for food. The forage in Dave Fisher's allotment is the greenest and most productive in years. In dry years, according to the Nevada Department of Fish and Game, cattle eat plants that are out of the tortoise's reach; and supply the tortoise population with "second hand" nourishment, saving them from starvation. Only an idiot could conclude that cattle threaten the food supply of the desert tortoise!

The greatest threat to the tortoise is the incompetence of the BLM wildlife biologists. Several years ago they were given a 25,000-acre tortoise preserve near Randsburg, California. Tortoise fencing and highway signs directing ethnic groups that eat tortoises have apparently lead to a near ninety percent decline in the tortoise population. Baby tortoises, with their undeveloped shells, are like little "Twinkies" to predators. Their only defense is dispersion in all directions when they hatch. Under normal conditions, some 95% become part of the food chain in the five years that it takes their carapace to grow strong enough to give them some measure of protection. In our opinion, tortoise fences can act as a net concentrating juvenile tortoises along the fence for predators such as hawks, ravens, coyotes, etc.

The BLM tortoise staff has done some very strange things to "manage" the tortoises; for example they spent $90,000 of state OHV (off-road vehicle) recreation funds to create thousands of Styrofoam tortoises to place out on the desert range, apparently to prove that cows would step on tortoises, or that off-roaders were using them for speed bumps. However, the BLM forgot that the wind blows in the desert. So, after the tortoises blew across the desert and piled up on fence lines and sagebrush, they took them back to the BLM Riverside office, where I witnessed them carving holes in the bottoms and placing what appeared to be a bag of lead shot inside to weight them down. It is my understanding that the Styrofoam tortoises are back out in the desert again. Since the BLM has issued no statement as a result of this experiment, we can only assume that they were not able to show that either cows or motorcycles kill tortoises.

Don Fife is an environmental and economic geologist with more than 20 years of experience in academia and in government and private consulting. He served 8 years as Advisor to four Secretaries of Interior on the California Desert Conservation Advisory Council for the 25,000,000-acre California Desert Conservation Area during the Reagan-Bush administrations. donfife@earthlink.net






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