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Desert Tortoise Management

The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages millions of acres of public land across the deserts of Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. This management area includes 74 percent of the designated critical habitat for the Mojave desert tortoise (4,790,600 acres of the total 6,446,200 acres designated in 1994).

Hugo getting checked by an employee.Since the 1970's, BLM has been actively involved in conservation of the species. The agency has designed and participated in research, restored and conserved habitat and participated in monitoring the species. Daily, BLM employees work to uphold the provisions of the Endangered Species Act by taking actions to conserve and recover the species and reduce the impact of activities BLM authorizes.

In Nevada, BLM has set aside more than 940,000 acres as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern to conserve adequate habitat for the species. Through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act and participation in the Clark County Habitat Conservation Plan, BLM has:

• restored hundreds of acres of degraded critical habitat,
• funded translocation of tortoises to the wild to augment wild populations
• installed protective fencing to keep tortoises off busy roads, mines and construction sites,
• closed livestock grazing allotments to reduce competition for forage,
• closed approximately 1 million acres to mineral entry and patent to reduce future habitat loss,
• acquired environmentally sensitive private lands within these ACECs, and
• designated roads to reduce habitat fragmentation.

In addition, BLM owns the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) in Las Vegas which is operated in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Department of Wildlife, and San Diego Zoo Global. The DTCC was created in 1991 to house wild desert tortoises removed from the path of development and to use those tortoises to aid recovery of the species.

Below are some additional highlights of BLM’s conservation activities across the Mojave Desert:

  • The BLM manages 74 percent of the designated critical habitat for the species (4,790,600 acres of the total 6,446,200 acres designated in 1994).
  • BLM has incorporated protections for critical habitat into all land use plans within the Mojave Desert. This includes creation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and Desert Wildlife Management Areas (DWMA):
    • 170,000 acres on the Arizona Strip
    • 946,879 areas in Southern Nevada
    • 2,464,034 acres in California (402,034 acres in West Mojave, 312,000 areas in Northern and Eastern Mojave, and 1,750,000 acres in Northern and Eastern Colorado Desert)
  • Restriction of activities that threaten the continued existence and recovery of the species including:
  • Removal of livestock grazing in most desert tortoise ACECs/DWMAs totaling over 5,000,000 acres
  • Restrictions on issuance of rights-of-way and leases within ACECs/DWMAs including establishment of exclusion areas and avoidance areas
  • Restriction of off-road vehicle use including route designations, limitations of use to existing roads and trails, route closures, and racing restrictions
  • Segregation from mineral entry and patent
  • Habitat restoration programs
  • Requirements to retain conserved habitat in Federal ownership
  • Participation in local and regional Habitat Conservation Plans
  • Participation on the Desert Tortoise Management Oversight Group, the Desert Managers Group and the Mojave Desert Initiative group, three regional teams of federal land managers



Desert Tortoise Species Information

Threats to Desert Tortoise

Adopting a Mojave Desert Tortoise in Nevada

Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

Translocation throughout the Species Range within the Southern Nevada & Caliente Offices