August 24, 2008

Desert tortoises making slow march toward recovery

KTVN - Reno NV
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Eighteen years since the federal government decided to protect the Mojave desert tortoise, wildlife officials still don't know if it has done any good to stop its widespread decline in the scrubby desertlands of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

In some places, biologists went looking for desert tortoises only to come up with empty shells.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to tweak its plan for recovering tortoises by focusing on a more coordinated approach between dozens of state, federal and local agencies who control land where the tortoise lives.

Wildlife officials are also trying to figure out better ways to monitor recovery progress.

More than $100 million has been spent since 1980 when some tortoises were listed as threatened.