Our Klamath Basin
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
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
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.