The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a new recovery plan for the threatened desert tortoise, drawing complaints from an environmental group that contends it is less protective than what is currently in place.
The recovery blueprint is aimed at reversing declines of tortoises in the Mojave Desert. It follows a 1994 version that identified the species’ biggest threats: livestock grazing, off-road vehicles and non-native plants. Since then, global climate change and renewable energy development over vast expanses of the desert also have become critical issues.
The revision takes into account earlier criticisms of the 1994 plan, with a more coordinated approach to recovery efforts and ways to determine how effective they are, said Roy Averill-Murray, desert tortoise recovery coordinator for Fish and Wildlife in Reno. With the new plan, regional teams will meet regularly and use a computer model to map and evaluate recovery efforts.
"It really makes it a much more interactive and ongoing process instead of just passing a document out to the various agencies and walking away from it," he said.
Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the plan doesn’t address renewable energy development, which she considers one of the biggest threats to the tortoise.
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