May 26, 2005

GAO Releases Desert Tortoise Recovery Results

$100 Million Later We Still Don't Know Anything About The Mojave Desert Tortoise

WatchDog Watch
Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE)

According to the Government Accounting Office, the federal government in the last 25 years has spent over $100,000,000 on recovery actions and research for the Mojave Desert Tortoise, a listed species under the Endangered Species Act. Despite all this time and money, GAO found that "it is still unclear what the status of the tortoise is and what effect, if any, recovery actions are having on the species...."

Winston has no reason to question GAO's facts and conclusions. He does have some other questions, though.

First, why is the federal government spending $100,000,000 on a tortoise found only in the Mojave Desert? The answer is that it's on the ESA list. That, however, doesn't answer the next question: Is it worth it?

Leaving that question unanswered, Winston wants to know why after all this time and money do we still have no idea whether the time and money have done any good? According to GAO, the answer to this question is "research has not been coordinated in a way to provide essential management information." Winston is not an expert in this area, but he suspect he could find a nice place for the tortoise to live for a lot less money and in a lot less time. Real estate is still cheap in the Mojave Desert.

By the way, this GAO report contains a list of all the reports GAO has issued with regard to the ESA. They provide good but depressing reading. Rarely has a government program with such good intentions wasted so much time and money and accomplished so little.

GAO Desert Tortoise Recovery Results Report