August 31, 2013

BLM reports Burning Man crowd tops 61,000 in Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada

The "Man" burns on the Black Rock Desert at Burning Man near Gerlach, Nev. on Aug. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron)

Associated Press

RENO, Nev. — A federal official says more than 61,000 people have turned out so far for the weekend Burning Man outdoor art and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Mark Turney said Saturday that gate management was tightened Friday when organizers got close to a permitted capacity of 68,000.

Turney says the crowd ebbs and flows at the festival taking place about 100 miles north of Reno.

He says organizers reported one person was flown to a hospital by medical helicopter this week after being struck by a vehicle.

No other serious incidents have been reported.

Attendance peaked last year at 56,000.

The BLM raised the crowd limit this year after organizers agreed to security, public safety, resource management and cleanup rules.

August 29, 2013

Nevada's 'experiment in the desert' more popular than ever: Nearly 70,000 gather for weekend of debauchery at Burning Man festival

In its 27th year, there are already more people at the current event than attended all of last year's festival

Beyond the Thunderdome: A participant bicycles away from the effigy of the Man (top right) at the 2013 Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Daily Mail Online

Burning Man, the annual art, music and everything-else festival currently taking place in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, is the most popular ever than more people already on-site than attended the entire event last year.

The largest outdoor arts festival in North America is in its 27th year, with as many as 68,000 people expected to part-take in partying, debauchery and excess before it all ends for another year on Labor Day.

Described as an 'experimental community,' it incorporates plenty of partying plus lighting massive fire displays, donning eye-catching costumes and performing passionate dances at sunrise. Organizers stress it's mostly up to participants to decide what Burning Man is.

Earlier this year the federal government issued a permit for 68,000 people from all over the world to gather at the sold out festival and spend up to a week in the remote desert cut off from much of the outside world.

This year’s event is already the largest ever, organizers said more than 55,000 people had already arrived at Black Rock City at noon on Tuesday. That is almost as many as were present at last year’s event during its peak.

Traditionally only the hard-core burners arrived when the gates opened Monday and a crush of people often referred to as ‘Weekend Warriors’ would show up sometime between Thursday and Saturday, reports NBC Bay Area.

By morning on Wednesday, there were 15 streets circling the temporary city created by attendees and the forecast remains free of dust storms.

Many have been impressed by the size and look of this year's Man Base, a structure that houses the iconic 'Man' figure burned each year near the event's close.

Inside a flying saucer under the Man is a multi-level structure with zoetropes, a giant chandelier and views of Black Rock City. Slides serve as exits.

The art theme this year is ‘Cult Cargo’ and focuses on a strange being called John Frum.

'He is known to us by many names, this Visitor from Elsewhere, dispenser of endless abundance and wielder of mysterious technologies: John Frum, Quetzalcoatl, Osiris, "Bob,"' reads the website.

'His cargo is splendid, his generosity boundless, his motives beyond our understanding. But across the ages and around the world, the stories all agree: one day he will return, bearing great gifts.

'Our theme this year asks three related questions; who is John Frum, where is he really from, and where, on spaceship Earth, are we all going?'

The biggest tradition comes at the end of the week – on Sept 2 - when participants will set fire to a giant wooden ‘man’ that gives the event its name. Tickets for the event costs up to $650.

It has become a haven for hippies, artists, musicians and dancers and provides a week for people to explore artistic expression. No money is exchanged at the event; instead the festival-goers swap gifts to attain goods.

The Black Rock Desert is 120 miles north of Reno and the gathering is the largest permitted event on federal land in the United States.

After it moved from San Francisco's Baker Beach, the inaugural Burning Man in Nevada drew some 80 people in 1990. The first 1,000-plus crowd was in 1993, and attendance doubled each of the next three years before reaching 23,000 in 1999.

The crowd was capped at 50,000 under a five-year permit that expired in 2010. The new multi-year permit allows a maximum crowd of 70,000, but organizers applied for a cap of 68,000 this year.

As always, festival goers are expected to obey the ten principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation and Immediacy are of the utmost importance to the community.

Support flows in for sick desert tortoises

In this Aug 22, 2013, photo, research Associate Pamela Flores conducts a health assessment on a desert tortoise at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Las Vegas. Federal funds are running out at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they've been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)(Credit: AP)


LAS VEGAS (AP) — News that hundreds of threatened desert tortoises face euthanasia with the pending closure of a refuge near Las Vegas has generated a storm of reaction that has government officials scrambling to find alternatives and fielding offers from people wishing to adopt the reptiles or make donations.

The Associated Press reported this week that the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, which has sheltered thousands of displaced tortoises for 23 years, is scheduled to close in 2014 as funding runs out.

As the location just south of Las Vegas begins to ramp down, it is euthanizing tortoises deemed too unhealthy to return to the wild. Healthy tortoises won’t be killed.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service desert tortoise recovery coordinator Roy Averill-Murray estimated last week that about 50 percent to 60 percent of the 1,400 tortoises that live at the refuge were sick. Such tortoises cannot be released into the wild because they could infect their healthy wild brethren.

The estimate prompted a public outcry and debate among the various agencies connected to the refuge about the number of at-risk tortoises. It also forced the agency to issue a statement assuring the public that no healthy tortoises will be killed but saying that euthanasia is the only option for many of the animals because they are sick. Fish and Wildlife also assigned four people to field calls and put a message about the situation on its spokeswoman’s answering machine.

Deputy Fish and Wildlife Service director Carolyn Wells said Wednesday that the 50 percent estimate of sick tortoises at the facility may be correct, but added that not all of the ailing animals will be killed. Some of them could potentially go to research facilities, she said, though she could not say how many, and she does not yet have commitments from biologists.

Fish and Wildlife operates the center in conjunction with the San Diego Zoo.

Allyson Walsh, associate director for the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, said just 30 percent of the residents are receiving medical treatment, though some others have been quarantined and need new evaluations.

“The ones that don’t get better and that are sick and suffering will probably be euthanized because that’s the sensible thing to do,” she said.

She disputed the notion that budget cuts are forcing the reptiles to be put down. Although the center has housed sickly tortoises for years, Walsh said they eventually would have been euthanized anyway.

Walsh said sick tortoises cannot be adopted out and she has not been contacted by any researchers interested in taking in the sick animals.

“That’s a possibility but we wouldn’t transfer an animal to anyone who was doing destructive research,” she said.

The right thing to do for a sick animal is euthanize it, she said.

Seth Webster disagrees.

Webster, a 36 year old programmer from New York, created a petition that together with a similar one on the site has drawn more than 3,000 signatures. He said he is working with a Florida tortoise refuge that recently bought land in Nevada to see if Fish and Wildlife will transfer the tortoises, or at least let an outside evaluator decide which animals are so sick they should be killed.

“Animals have a very strong will to survive,” he said. “These tortoises live to 100 years. If we euthanize him, are we robbing him of 30 years? It doesn’t seem fair to euthanize them just because the tortoises are sick and someone ran out of money.”

Desert tortoises have made their rocky homes in Utah, California, Arizona and Nevada for 200 million years. But the prehistoric animal has some unfortunate evolutionary quirks, including a susceptibility to flu-like respiratory infections and difficulties settling in to new homes. They are also sensitive to change as the tortoises sometimes dehydrate themselves by voiding a year’s worth of stored water when handled.

These weaknesses have combined with widespread habitat destruction in the quickly developing Southwest to dramatically reduce the tortoises’ numbers.

The Bureau of Land Management has partially funded the conservation center through fees imposed on developers who disturb tortoise habitat, but when the housing bubble burst several years ago, that funding dropped far below what was needed to run the center.

“Here’s an upside to this. It’s gone international,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jeannie Stafford said. “We have gotten hundreds of people saying they would like to adopt. Thousands of people signing petitions. It’s been people wanting to help us with the situation.”

But most of the would-be tortoise Good Samaritans cannot actually adopt the animals. Federal laws intended to protect the reptiles ban their transportation across state lines.

People who live in Nevada can adopt the slowpokes through the Desert Tortoise Group. But they should know that owners who kill or release their long-lived pets could face prison time.

The Humane Society of the United States is setting up a fund this week for out-of-staters who want to help but cannot take a tortoise home.

Despite the overwhelming response, the Bureau of Land Management is not reconsidering its plan to pull funding that goes toward the center’s $1 million annual budget.

“Although it’s wonderful that people want to give money, it won’t change the outcome for the Desert Conservation Center,” BLM spokeswoman Erica Haspiel-Szlosek said. “There just isn’t money to keep it going, nor is it really the best use of conservation funds.”

The agency plans to redirect the $810 fee that developers pay for each acre of tortoise habitat they disturb to environmental preservation efforts.

The center has historically taken in about 1,000 tortoises a year, but will stop accepting new residents in coming months.

Tortoise rescue in Hi-Desert investigates Nevada kill-off

A male desert tortoise that is about 40 years old was rescued by the Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue and is held by director Rae Packard. (Omar Ornelas, The Desert Sun)

Hi-Desert Star
Staff report

MORONGO BASIN — The headline read, “Hundreds of desert tortoises to be euthanized by 2014 at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center just outside Las Vegas.”

“My heart just sank,” Rae Packard, executive director of the Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue, said after hearing the news. Since then, Packard says her rescue line has been ringing non-stop.

“At first, people thought it was us,” Packard said. She has had to explain that the tortoises marked for death are in Nevada.

Not believing the numbers, Packard called the man who was interviewed for the story, Roy Averill-Murray, head of the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center.

Averill-Murray told her while the situation is dire, the numbers in the article were exaggerated, and only six tortoises are scheduled to die. Averill-Murray said those tortoises have been diagnosed with upper respiratory disease syndrome and are failing to thrive.

When Packard asked if she could pick up those tortoises and rehabilitate them at her facility, Averill-Murray said both Nevada and California state laws absolutely prohibit the interstate transport of desert tortoises.

“The fear is that if they escape from a rescue facility or adoptive home, the sick tortoises may contaminate healthy ones,” Packard explained.

She heard surreptitious talk of an underground movement to take the tortoises, Packard said by phone Wednesday. However, she cautioned no one should get involved in something like that. Transporting desert tortoises across state lines is a federal offense, and the fines reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.

“I know that it’s an important law that went into effect to protect what is remaining of an already declining tortoise population,” Packard said, “But I believe an exception should be made in this case, especially if a cure for URDS is possible. That’s why the tortoise adoption programs were invented.”

Packard encourages those who have been moved by this story to reach out to federal legislative officials to urge them to continue funding the conservation center and to state officials to suspend the interstate transport law to stop this life-or-death crisis.

August 27, 2013

Conservation Center Tortoises Will Be Released

Desert tortoises are threatened by their own conservation center. (Desert Tortoise Conservation Center)


Las Vegas – Southern Nevada’s 17-year-old Desert Tortoise Conservation Center will close by the end of 2014 as the funding that supports it dries up.

There are 1,400 desert tortoises living at the center, where management and wildlife officials were scrambling on Monday to correct the misconception that the animals will be euthanized on a large scale.

Jeannie Stafford of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the national press misreported the center’s intentions. The center is working to get some of the tortoises adopted through the humane society. Some could go to private land that can accommodate them, the remainder, if they are healthy, will be released into the wild.

The center has so many tortoises because people find them and take them home as pets, only to have a change of heart later.

Stafford urges parents, kids, and anyone else who might get the urge to adopt — if you see a tortoise in the wild, it’s best to leave it there.

August 26, 2013

Weekend Storms Close Park Roads in Joshua Tree and Mojave Preserve

Pinto Basin Road washed out in Joshua Tree National Park | Photo: NPS | Lacy Ditto

by Chris Clarke

Torrential rains that pushed into the California desert over the weekend washed out a number of main roads in Mojave National Preserve, as well as a major thoroughfare connecting the east and west sections of Joshua Tree National Park.

The storms, which dumped as much as 7 or 8 inches of rain in some parts of the desert on Sunday, washed out Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park on Sunday. That road is closed for at least two weeks, as are the Cottonwood Campground and nearby visitor center that are accessible only by way of the closed road.

Farther north in the Mojave Preserve, which has been getting hit hard by rain over the last few days, a Sunday thunderstorm badly damaged the roads to the Preserve's formal campgrounds. Essex and Black Canyon roads, which are the only paved routes to the Preserve's popular Hole In The Wall Campground, are both closed.

Veteran preserve visitors who might be tempted to reach Hole In The Wall or the nearby Mid Hills Campground the back way, via the dirt section of Black Canyon Road via Cedar Canyon Road, will be disapponted as well: the National Park Service says travel on those well-loved backcountry roads is "not recommended." The same goes for the paved and dirt sections of Ivanpah and Lanfair roads, the 4WD-only Mojave Road, and Wildhorse Canyon Road. In general, though some dirt roads such as the popular Aiken Mine road remain open, the Park Service is officially advising people avoid traveling on the Preserve's back roads.

Despite those warnings, both the Hole In The Wall and Mid-Hills campgrounds remain open.

The Preserve's main paved through-routes also remain open, but the Park Service advises that San Bernardino County road crews will conducting emergency repairs to storm damage on Kelbaker and Kelso-Cima roads. Travelers routinely use those roads as high-speed shortcuts to Baker or Las Vegas; use extra caution this week and slow down for the sake of those crews.

Travelers who plan a visit to the Preserve can get updates on road conditions via the Preserve's website or by calling (760) 252-6108. Joshua Tree National Park is asking potential visitors to check that park's website for updates.

This weekend's storms passed by Death Valley National Park, and travelers may be tempted to head in that direction instead. But many of that park's roads remain closed after storms last month, and the tropical storm systems off the Baja coast will be sending storms our way for much of the next week, so be sure to check with the Park Service before you commit. Death Valley's Morning Report is a good source of recent updates to road conditions throughout that park.

August 25, 2013

Desert tortoise faces threat from its own refuge

This Aug 22, 2013, photo, shows tortoise pens at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Las Vegas. The center is scheduled to be shut down due to lack of funding. Federal funds are running out at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they've been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990. (Isaac Brekken, Associated Press)

By Hannah Dreier
Deseret News / Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — For decades, the vulnerable desert tortoise has led a sheltered existence.

Developers have taken pains to keep the animal safe. It's been protected from meddlesome hikers by the threat of prison time. And wildlife officials have set the species up on a sprawling conservation reserve outside Las Vegas.

But the pampered desert dweller now faces a threat from the very people who have nurtured it.

Federal funds are running out at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they've been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990.

"It's the lesser of two evils, but it's still evil," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service desert tortoise recovery coordinator Roy Averill-Murray during a visit to the soon-to-be-shuttered reserve at the southern edge of the Las Vegas Valley last week.

Biologists went about their work examining tortoises for signs of disease as Averill-Murray walked among the reptile pens. But the scrubby 220-acre refuge area will stop taking new animals in the coming months. Most that arrive in the fall will simply be put down, late-emerging victims of budget problems that came from the same housing bubble that put a neighborhood of McMansions at the edge of the once-remote site.

The Bureau of Land Management has paid for the holding and research facility with fees imposed on developers who disturb tortoise habitat on public land. As the housing boom swept through southern Nevada in the 2000s, the tortoise budget swelled. But when the recession hit, the housing market contracted, and the bureau and its local government partners began struggling to meet the center's $1 million annual budget.

Housing never fully recovered, and the federal mitigation fee that developers pay has brought in just $290,000 during the past 11 months. Local partners, which collect their own tortoise fees, have pulled out of the project.

"With the money going down and more and more tortoises coming in, it never would have added up," said BLM spokeswoman Hillerie Patton.

Back at the conservation center, a large refrigerator labeled "carcass freezer" hummed in the desert sun as scientists examined the facility's 1,400 inhabitants to find those hearty enough to release into the wild. Officials expect to euthanize more than half the animals in the coming months in preparation for closure at the end of 2014.

The desert tortoise is a survivor that has toddled around the Southwest for 200 million years. But ecologists say the loss of the conservation center represents a harmful blow in southern Nevada for an animal that has held onto some unfortunate evolutionary quirks that impede its coexistence with strip malls, new homes and solar plants.

Laws to protect the panicky plodders ban hikers from picking them up, since the animals are likely dehydrate themselves by voiding a year's worth of stored water when handled. When they're moved, they nearly always attempt to trudge back to their burrows, foiling attempts to keep them out of harm's way. They're also beset by respiratory infections and other illnesses.

No more than 100,000 tortoises are thought to survive in the habitat where millions once burrowed across parts of Utah, California, Arizona and Nevada.

The animals were once so abundant that tourists would scoop them up as souvenirs. Many quickly realized the shy grass-eaters don't make ideal pets. (For one thing, they can live for 100 years.) And once the species was classified as threatened on the endangered species list, people rushed to give them back.

Former pets make up the majority of the tortoises at the conservation center, where they spend their days staring down jackrabbits and ducking out of the sun into protective PVC piping tucked into the rocky desert floor. Most of these animals are not suitable for release, either infected with disease or otherwise too feeble to survive.

Averill-Murray looks as world-weary as the animals he studies. He wants to save at least the research function of the center and is looking for alternative funding sources.

"It's not the most desirable model to fund recovery — on the back of tortoise habitat," he said.

August 23, 2013

Chemehuevi Tribe Weighs In Against Cadiz Desert H2O Extraction Project

San Bernardino Sentinel

NEEDLES — The Chemehuevi Tribe has added its protest to the growing chorus of opposition to the Cadiz Water Project, which is purposed to transfer up to 50,000 acre-feet of water from the East Mojave Desert to Orange and Los Angeles counties and was given project approval by an Orange County Water District last year but is now being contested by eleven lawsuits.

The project is an undertaking of Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc., which since the 1980s has operated a 500-acre organic grape, citrus, melon and pepper farm in the Cadiz Valley. Cadiz, Inc. arranged to have the Santa Margarita Water District, to which it is contracted to deliver a portion of the water to be extracted from the desert, to assume lead agency status for the project’s approval. Many of those opposed to the project considered that to be a conflict of interest. San Bernardino County contemplated but in March 2012 ultimately elected against challenging Orange County-based Santa Margarita’s assumption of that lead agency status on the project.

Instead on May 1, 2012 the county entered into a memorandum of understanding with that district and Cadiz, Inc. and its corporate entities, including the Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company, allowing Santa Margarita to oversee the environmental impact report for the project and conduct the public hearings related to project approval. On October 1, 2012, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors gave approval to a groundwater monitoring plan to facilitate completion of the project

The project generated eleven lawsuits in which San Bernardino County, Santa Margarita and Cadiz, Inc. have been named as defendants. Even before those lawsuits materialized, the county, on March 27, 2012, retained the San Francisco-based law firm of Downey Brand to assist county counsel in responding to any lawsuits it contemplated might be triggered by the project at what was then said to be a not-to-exceed cost of $449,322. Since that time, however, legal costs have escalated and the county has now earmarked $1,449,332 to pay for outside legal counsel to represent the county with regard to legal challenges to the project.

The lawsuits allege that the project will drain the aquifer in both the Cadiz Valley and nearby Fenner Valley, wreaking environmental harm; that the approval process for the project which allowed a water district in Orange County more than 217 miles from the project area to serve as the lead agency for the project and oversee its environmental certification violated state and federal environmental laws; that the county of San Bernardino failed to abide by its own desert groundwater management plan in approving the project; that the environmental impact report for the project was inadequate; and that approval of the project violated provisions of both the National Historic Preservation Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and that the Bureau of Land Management failed to conduct a proper review of the cultural and environmental impacts of the project; that the extraction of the water will interfere with salt mining and other preexisting industrial operations in the area; and other issues.

Plaintiffs include Delaware Tetra Technologies, which operates a salt and mineral mine in the Fenner Valley, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the International Union of North America Local No. 783, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Colorado River Branch of the Archaeological Heritage Association, Santa Margarita Citizens and Ratepayers Opposing Water Nonsense, and Rodrigo Briones.

Among those inveighing against the project are U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and former as-sistant San Bernardino County administrative officer John Goss. Feinstein has publicly stated that the project’s proposed extraction of more than one million acre-feet of water from the Eastern Mojave Desert over the 50-year life of the project will significantly exceed the United States Geological Survey’s estimate of the area’s recharge capability. Goss, who drafted the county’s desert groundwater management ordinance before it was adopted in 2002, said that ordinance was violated when the memorandum of understanding between the county, Cadiz, Inc. and the Santa Margarita Water District had been entered into before a groundwater management plan for the Cadiz project was adopted.

Now joining Feinstein and Goss are members of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe. Jay Cravath Ph.D., cultural director of the Chemehuevis, said the tribe has “deep concerns” regarding the project. “It will draw considerably more water than the aquifer can replace. It will pose a threat to the ranchers, rural communities and East Mojave landowners. It will do long-term harm to the springs of the precious Mojave National Preserve.”

Cravath went on to state, “What has not been part of the debate is the fact that those are among the ancestral lands of the Chemehuevi. We have traveled the trails for a thousand years. For us, the New York Mountains are akin to the Hebrews’ Mount of Olives; the forests of the Ship Mountains, our Cedars of Lebanon. The ancestors considered those springs not only the life-giving flow, but sacred blessings of mother earth. As this process moves forward, any decision must also weigh the sacred nature of these lands to our tribal members, and those who came before.”

August 17, 2013

Plane crash cause listed

Inland News Today
Cactus Thorns

INLAND EMPIRE – (INT) – A High Desert plane crash last year has been blamed on the pilot flying too high without supplemental oxygen.

On 4/5/2012 at approximately 8:12 p.m. a 2002 Cessna 182 crashed in the open desert just west of the Mojave National Preserve (about 20 miles north of Ludlow).

The plane was located at 11:30 p.m. by San Bernardino Sheriff’s Aviation personnel.

Due to the condition of the aircraft, darkness and terrain, the decision was made to return the following a.m. to recover the remains of the pilot. Dennis Bazar, a 63 year old resident of San Marino, was the pilot and solo occupant of the Cessna, and had just taken off on a cross-country flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled this week that Dennis Bazar was flying alone above 14,000 feet causing him to become impaired by hypoxia. The small plane went into a rapid descent, but the pilot was unable to recover his vision and judgment.

August 16, 2013

Area 51 is out there: CIA finally acknowledges the existence of secret 'UFO' airbase

The mysterious piece of land in Nevada has been linked with reports of UFOs, alien bodies and secret government projects

Map of Area 51 released by CIA.
The Independent

Officially it has never existed. Until now.

The CIA has for the first time acknowledged the existence of Area 51 - the enigmatic US airbase that is shrouded in mystery and is a staple of alien conspiracy theories.

The mysterious piece of land in Nevada has been linked with reports of UFOs, alien bodies and secret government projects.

A declassified CIA history of the U-2 spy plane programme, made public this week, makes numerous references to the air base.

The documents came to light during research by the National Security Archive (NSA) at George Washington University for a report into the development, history and operation of U-2 spy planes during the Cold War.

Included among the documentation is also a map of the secret base.

As part of their research the archive obtained documents that for the first time actually make reference to Area 51. Included among the documentation, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request made in 2005, is also a map showing the position of the secret base.

"President Eisenhower also approved the addition of this strip of wasteland, known by its map designation as Area 51, to the Nevada Test Site," the history reads.

To make the new facility in the middle of nowhere sound more attractive to his workers, Kelly Johnson called it the Paradise Ranch, which was soon shortened to the Ranch."

Much of the information contained in the newly released documents was already known to Area 51 aficionados, but the fact that the air base is mentioned in a publicly available document is nevertheless considered notable.

A public records request initially yielded documents, reviewed by National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson in 2002, but all mentions of Area 51 had been redacted.

Mr Richelson says he requested the history again in 2005 and received a version a few weeks ago with mentions of Area 51 restored.

Officials have already acknowledged in passing the existence of the facility in central Nevada where the government is believed to test intelligence tools and weapons.

Mr Richelson believes the new document shows the CIA is becoming less secretive about Area 51's existence, if not about what goes on there.

"It marks an end of official secrecy about the facts of Area 51," Mr Richelson told the Las Vegas Sun. "It opens up the possibility that future accounts of this and other aerial projects will be less redacted, more fully explained in terms of their presence in Area 51."

Drought-Induced Curb on Lake Powell Water Is First-Ever

Lake Mead will operate under normal conditions in 2014, said the bureau, which constructed the Hoover Dam and brings water to about 31 million people a year. (Photographer: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

By Rachel Layne

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water in 17 Western states, announced its first-ever water-release reduction from Lake Powell to Lake Mead, citing the worst 14-year drought period in 100 years.

The 9.1 percent cutback by the largest wholesale water-supplier in the U.S. amounts to that used by 1.5 million homes. It’s the lowest water release since Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River near the Utah-Arizona border, was filled in the 1960s, the agency said today in a statement.

Lake Mead, Las Vegas’s main water source, is projected to decline an additional eight feet in 2014 as a result of the lower Lake Powell annual release, the bureau said from Salt Lake City. Even so, Lake Mead will operate under normal conditions in 2014, said the bureau, which constructed the Hoover Dam and brings water to about 31 million people a year.

Water releases are to be 7.48 million acre-feet for the year ending September 2014, down from usual releases of 8.23 million feet, and were curbed in response to extreme drought conditions in the region, the bureau said. An acre-foot is the volume needed to cover an acre of land one-foot deep with water.

“With a good winter snowpack next year, the outlook could change significantly as it did in 2011 but we also need to be prepared for continuing drought,” Terry Fulp, Reclamation’s Lower Colorado regional director, said in the statement.

The cutback is 750,000 feet below a 2007 agreement between lower- and upper-basin states drawing from the Colorado River. That agreement doesn’t include Mexico, which is guaranteed under a different 1944 agreement, according to an Aug. 14 article by the Traverse City, Michigan-based group

Reclamation’s current long-term hydrologic models show a “very small chance” of lower-basin delivery shortages in 2015 with the first significant chance of reduced water deliveries in the lower basin in 2016. Projections are updated monthly.

The Colorado River that ends in a trickle in the Sea of Cortez is the most endangered river in the U.S., stressed by the water needs of residents and irrigated acreage along its length, according to the environmental group American Rivers.

Lake Mead is on the Nevada-Arizona state line.

August 13, 2013

Mystery memos fuel battle between Nevada, DOE over nuclear waste

A U.S. Air Force humvee is driven past as anti-nuclear activists walk after a sunrise ceremony just outside the Nevada test site near Mercury, Nevada, 60 miles north of Las Vegas. (Reuters)

By Barnini Chakraborty

WASHINGTON – U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz plans to meet with Nevada’s governor on Tuesday to discuss an escalating dispute between the state and the federal government over where to dump hundreds of canisters of radioactive waste, has learned.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks over who should be forced to keep the nuclear material. The federal government says Nevada signed off on a series of memos agreeing to take it, but Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval says those talks never happened -- and says his state shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of burying toxic waste in its backyard.

“The state of Nevada is not aware of any signed memos between the state and DOE regarding the approval of the material in question,” Mac Bybee, the governor’s communication director, told

Both Sandoval's office and the Department of Energy confirmed that Moniz and the governor will meet on Tuesday.

Bybee says his office hasn’t located any memo from any state-level agency that has had contact with the Energy Department regarding the security, transportation or disposal of nuclear material.
That’s a problem because Moniz testified under oath during a July 30 Senate hearing to their existence.

“There were long discussions held, many memos signed on specifically this particular low-level waste movement,” Moniz told senators. “The department agreed to special activities for the disposal. The department agreed to do something unprecedented – to move this in secured transports.”

DOE spokeswoman Keri Fulton told that Moniz “looks forward to having a productive conversation with Governor Sandoval tomorrow to resolve this important issue."

Sandoval, a former federal judge and state attorney general, has also accused the DOE of trying to set a dangerous precedent by exploiting a regulatory loophole to classify the waste as a low-level hazard so that it can be buried at a nuclear test location about an hour northwest of Las Vegas.

The canisters in question carry about 2.6 kilograms of uranium-233 and uranium-235 – two products that require safety escorts and can only be handled with remote-controlled cranes. The material is left over from a government research project in the 1980s called Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Project.

Tennessee currently has possession of all 403 welded steel containers of the bomb-making material.

The material was set to be transported from Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- the government’s only facility for handling, processing and storing weapons-grade uranium -- to Nevada earlier this year but that never happened. And if Nevada has its way, it never will.

Uranium-233 was first commissioned by the federal government when it was trying to find fuel for reactors and bombs. The government and the private sector created a man-made substitute and then went on to make 3,400 pounds of it. The government says it doesn’t need it anymore and now is left with the prickly task of finding a way to get rid of it.

Uranium-235 is an isotope made up of 0.72 percent of uranium and was attractive to the government because it could undergo induced fission – something that’s needed for making nuclear power.

Earlier this year, spoke with Robert Alvarez of the Institute for Policy Studies about the serious safety and proliferation concerns around the material.

“I went over to the headquarters, talking to project managers. They all sort of gave me the ‘I don’t know’ response,” Alvarez said. “Nobody wants to deal with it.”

Sen. Harry Reid, and Rep. Dina Titus, both Democrats from Nevada, have also spoken out against the plan.

This isn’t the first fight Nevada has had over nukes.

The state and its federal elected officials have fought for more than three decades to block federal plans to ship and dump radioactive waste that’s been piling up at nuclear power plants around the country to Yucca Mountain.

August 12, 2013

Cadiz water project takes most of congressman’s visit time

Needles Desert Star

NEEDLES — A visit by Rep. Paul Cook of California’s 8th Congressional District mostly focused on the Cadiz water project as many residents who attended the Aug. 7 meeting made comments regarding the project.

Mayor Ed Paget, joined by Needles City Council Members Jim Lopez, Linda Kidd, Terry Campbell, Tom Darcy and Shawn Gudmundson, welcomed the congressman. Council Member Tony Frazier was absent from the meeting.

Several residents made their way to the podium to thank the congressman for his letter asking the federal government to review the Cadiz project. Several concerns regarding the project were also discussed.

The Cadiz water project, called the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, plans to deliver up to 50,000 acre-feet annually for 50 years. The following 50 years would be used to help recharge and focus on storage. Santa Margarita Water District approved the project last summer after a nearly 18-month environmental review. There was a public comment portion that had been extended to allow additional feedback.

Comments from residents focused on the various concerns they have about the project and possible impact it could have on the desert environment. Comments ranged in concern from how the federal government should review the project due to lack of appropriate process to depleting an already arid environment.

Rob Blair, local rancher, said his ranch has been in his family for generations. He’s concerned the project will deplete already limited water in the desert, which in turn would impact his ranch because he and his family depend on springs and wells for the livestock.

He said when in a drought, the springs start to dry up and that means selling the cattle, moving them somewhere else or spending money to pipe water.

In the proposal, Cadiz claims to be monitoring Domingo Springs, Blair said. That spring belongs to Blair and he knows there isn’t monitoring happening, he continued.

Seth Shteir, of the National Parks Conservation Association, also spoke on the Cadiz project. He referred to the phrase “no free lunch.”

Shteir said it defies credibility that Cadiz claims to want to pump 50,000 acre-feet of water annually for 50 years and that there will be no environmental impact. “We simply know better than that,” he added.

Cadiz has one set of assertions regarding the water resources in the Mojave and the association and other groups have different assertions, Shteir said. This should indicate a need for further review.

The actual impact of the project on habitat, wildlife and others who depend on the water is unknown, he said. Impact needs to be known before the project can happen.

While the visit focused on the Cadiz project, Cook did talk about other topics. He thanked all for the hospitality shown and for welcoming him.

He said the only part of the introduction he didn’t like was being called a politician. He thinks of himself as a states-person, he added.

Cook said the 8th Congressional District is a huge district and it’s difficult to get around but he appreciates getting invites and planning to visit nearby areas to avoid wasting time.

“I’m your representative,” Cook said. “It’s not about Washington.”

He said local issues are important to him and that’s part of why he raised concerns on the Cadiz project.

“I just don’t feel right about it,” he said, continuing that he’s not comfortable with taking water from his district and shipping it elsewhere.

“My first allegiance is to you guys,” Cook said to applause. “That’s the way I approach the job.”

Local issues are also why he’s spoken out about an off road area that the U.S. Marine Corps wants to expand into for training purposes. He said he has his concerns with that expansion in terms of safety.

Cook talked about how veteran affairs are important to him. “I’m not afraid to rock the boat,” he said.

He said he’s a Republican, but it doesn’t matter. It’s his job to represent everyone regardless of political persuasion.

Cook touched on the topic of economics for the city. He told the Needles Desert Star in an interview after the meeting dealing with the unique economic situation Needles faces is difficult.

He said he’s not sure how to change or help the city at the moment, though he wants to help. Residents and city staff know the city’s history best and are best equipped to develop ideas for how to help itself, he said.

Because of Needles’ small size, to get those changes made, he recommended making allies and making the city’s voice bigger so it will be heard, he said.

That type of work is how legislation is written and how changes are made to help cities, he continued; offering his services as a conduit to move ideas through the process and into law.

August 6, 2013

Why a federal review makes no sense for Cadiz project


Floyd E. Wicks
San Bernardino Sun

Despite last year's approval of the Cadiz Valley Water Project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) -- long considered the nation's toughest environmental law -- a handful of project opponents are now pushing for an expensive and time-consuming federal "do over." Doing so disrespects our state's environmental process, discounts the voices of supportive stakeholders and impedes needed water supplies and jobs for thousands. Here's why the idea of a federal process should be summarily rejected:

First, a new federal review would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. The federal government already approved and certified a larger form of the Cadiz project 12 years ago. A second stringent, multi-year CEQA review process was completed in 2012. The project, which will sustainably deliver 50,000 acre-feet of water a year to roughly 100,000 families, was reviewed and approved by two different California agencies -- the County of San Bernardino and the Santa Margarita Water District, Orange County's second-largest public water agency. Because of the CEQA process, the project includes significant protections for the environment and a rigorous, state-of-the-art groundwater management program that will be enforced by the county.

Second, mandating a federal review ignores the voices of thousands of local stakeholders who already participated in the public process, including lengthy hearings. Numerous government agencies (including federal agencies), independent groups, scientists and hundreds of individuals reviewed and commented on the project proposal. Nearly 2,500 San Bernardino County residents participated in support of the project. And the voluminous, certified Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) addressed each and every point raised.

Third, under existing law no federal review is required! It has been long-standing government policy to encourage important infrastructure, such as telecommunications lines and pipelines, to be installed along the nation's existing railroads. This common practice serves the public's clear interest in constructing infrastructure projects where they do the least environmental harm. Cadiz specifically chose an active railroad route to avoid untouched desert lands. This route was fully analyzed and approved as the best option during the environmental review and should be embraced. A call to reinterpret laws for the purpose of increasing bureaucracy shouldn't be tolerated.

Finally, calling for an additional "process clock" just serves to delay water supplies and jobs Southern Californians desperately need. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources, the state faces severe and unmet long-term water supply challenges to traditional sources. A recently released government report tells us that Southern California's imported water supplies may be reduced by 35 percent if we can't move forward with Bay Delta improvements. Local solutions are needed. San Bernardino County businesses and residents are entitled to 20 percent of the local water conserved by the Cadiz project and the project also will provide supplies in five other Southern California counties.

Meanwhile, John Husing, a leading local economist, estimates project construction will create an $850 million boost to the Inland Empire economy and produce 5,900 short-term jobs. With San Bernardino County unemployment hovering above 10 percent, such jobs are also sorely needed.

The project has been approved with broad support under the most stringent environmental law in the land and will provide a plethora of benefits. Let's not allow opponents to change the rules after the game because they didn't like the outcome. It's time to confront our water supply challenges and move ahead with innovative strategies like the Cadiz project. I invite Congressman Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, and his staff to a meeting to review the project's myriad benefits to San Bernardino County and, more specifically, to his constituency.

Floyd Wicks is a water resources engineer with over 35 years of experience in the water industry, including roles as president of American States Water Co. and SouthWest Water Co. He is a consultant on the Cadiz project.

August 5, 2013

High desert sightings: Something is out there

Barbara Harris, who is giving guided tours and a lecture Friday at Giant Rock as part of the Contact in the Desert conference, says local residents placed a 1947 Crosley car on the top of the huge boulder by nailing spikes into the rock and lifting it up with rope, block and tackle. This photo appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in 1951.

Bruce Fessier
Desert Sun

Full disclosure: I saw a UFO one afternoon in the summer of 1981.

I was driving through the curvy section of Highway 62 between Morongo Valley and Desert Hot Springs when a winged vessel, the likes of which I had never seen, flew between —not over —the hills, sandwiching the road. It paused and hovered for a moment, like a helicopter, and then accelerated faster than a Lear jet. By the time I got down the hill a minute later, it was gone. Without a trace.

I told a grocer in Morongo Valley about it and he wasn’t fazed. He said lots of people saw UFOs there. He attributed it to the Marine base in Twenty­nine Palms trying out experimental vessels.

I accepted that and just waited for that flying vehicle to be publicly unveiled. Three decades later, I’m still waiting.

That’s why I don’t think of the people attending this weekend’s Contact in the Desert convention at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center a bunch of kooks. I actually felt more sane after interviewing one of the speakers, Barbara Harris, chairwoman of the Morongo Basin Historical Society, who will give a lecture and tour of Giant Rock near Landers on Friday morning.

“Where you said you saw that, I have documentation,” she said. “Probably in the ’70s, there was a list where they had watchers who were calling in —a constant flow of sightings in that particular area. In their little town newspaper, people were writing what they were seeing and all these people were talking about the UFOs in that area. So that particular space, it’s very common for sightings.”

I lived in Joshua Tree in 1981 and have made regular trips to Joshua Tree National Park ever since. I attended the Joshua Tree Retreat Center when it was the Institute of Mentalphysics and I heard the story of how its founder, Edwin Dingle, was guided to that spot by a guru in China and how Frank Lloyd Wright and his son, Lloyd, designed the complex on what has been called an energy vortex.

I had heard Joshua Tree has the highest rate of UFOs in the nation, but never knew who measured those things. Harris, 56, said what drew Dingle to Joshua Tree also inspired Cabot Yerxa to build his pueblo in Desert Hot Springs, George Van Tassel to build his Integratron near Giant Rock and hold UFO conventions there in the 1950s, and actor Ted Markland to take celebrities to his hill in west Joshua Tree National Park to hear the voice of an ethereal being.

“The high desert has a special, unique, you might say ‘attraction’ within the world,” Harris explained. “There is a special ley line called the 33rd parallel. It’s used in astronomy to arrange where you mark your sightings to the North Star. The 33rd parallel is really an auspicious type of parallel line in the world and for some reason it’s very provocative and has a lot of synchronicities. The area up here in the high desert, we sit on the 33rd parallel and it’s noted for the most UFO sightings in the world. It sits on the same parallel as Roswell (New Mexico). It’s also the same parallel where the Japanese bomb went off. It also sits on the same parallel as the Bermuda Triangle. It’s also on the same parallel line where the Phoenix lights have happened.”

I noted Joshua Tree also is a popular place to take hallucinogenics such as magic mushrooms and peyote. The late Markland hosted Timothy Leary’s wedding at his Yucca Valley home with massive doses of LSD. I asked if that might be partially why the high desert leads the nation in UFO sightings.

Harris, like my Morongo Valley grocer, thinks it has more to do with the area’s proximity to the Marine base. But she won’t rule out Van Tassel’s assertion that he received the technology to build his Integratron from Venus.

Based on science?

Van Tassel worked on the Integratron from 1954 until his death in 1978 —two weeks before it was scheduled to open. He built it, partially upon the research of engineers Nikola Tesla and Georges Lakhovsky, as a “nonferromagnetic” structure to study the rejuvenation of people’s cells, anti-gravity and time travel. Howard Hughes reportedly invested in his experiments.

Harris doesn’t lecture on Van Tassel because she says he pulled some fraudulent stunts to attract business to further his research. But the Integratron is an engineering marvel and many visitors say its sound baths have therapeutic value. Harris notes the technology for his research didn’t exist before Van Tassel claimed to have had contact with someone from Venus.

Harris, who co-owns Adset Graphics in Yucca Valley, prefers to talk about Giant Rock, the seven-story, 5,800 square-foot free-standing boulder. Nomadic Indians used it as a site to contact the dead, Harris said. Legend has it that a Hopi shaman predicted before 1920 that man’s destiny in the 21st century would be foretold by the way Giant Rock would split. If it split in half it would mean the Earth Mother would not accept prayers for mankind. But if it split on the side, then man’s prayers would be answered and a new era would be revealed.

On Feb. 23, 2000, the Hi-Desert Star reported that a slice of the boulder split off at 8:20 a.m. on Feb. 21 after a group led by spiritual leader Shri Naath Devi spent two days praying and meditating at Giant Rock. Devi then declared “a great shift” was at hand.

Harris has interviewed a woman at that prayer session. She doubts they fulfilled the legend.

“To me, it was some people capitalizing on the moment,” she says. “This rock is millions of years old, 25,000 tons, seven stories high. It defied millions of years of wear and tear. Why did it pick Feb. (21), 2000 to split?”

She’ll explore that and her own 30-year study of UFOs in the high desert at Contact in the Desert. She’ll help kick off a three-day event featuring some of the biggest names in science and metaphysics to explore ancient legends. Harris says 500 people are expected.

Space lineage

Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, the star and consulting producer of the TV show “Ancient Aliens,” who is leading a workshop at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, says he’s never seen a conference quite like this one.

“This is a really, really great conference to attend if you’re interested in talking in person to the people that have appeared on ‘Ancient Aliens,’ ”said Tsoukalos, an associate of “Chariots of the Gods” author Erich von Daniken. “I am always incredibly grateful to be not only invited to speak at these things, but also to go to them and meet people interested in these topics because, back in the early ’90s, the average age of conferences like this was in the 80s. Now there are young people coming and that to me clearly indicates a craving for knowledge —knowledge that clearly exists.”

Tsoukalos believes von Daniken’s theory that ancient aliens have been seeding mankind for centuries. He says their visitations are the reason there are missing links in the evolution of species and paradigm leaps in civilizations. He also believes aliens are still visiting our planet.

“According to the Ancient Astronaut theory I subscribe to, we are essentially their offspring,” said Tsoukalos. “We’re all hybrid beings —half human, half extraterrestrial. This will one day be determined (by) geneticists. So, if you’re a parent and you have kids, you’re interested in what they’re doing for the rest of your life. So, I think that is the reason they’re still here —to keep an eye on our progress or to simply see how did the ‘experiment’ work out?”

Tsoukalos doesn’t necessarily believe we’ve had contact from Venus. He doesn’t want to know where the aliens are from because, he said, “That to me adds another level of speculation that actually turns off the general public to our ideas. I think it is better to approach the general public with just the idea that we’ve been visited.”

He’s excited about the gathering of such other experts in their fields as Jason Martell, George Noury, Michael Cremo and Graham Hancock. There are 31 speakers giving lectures and workshops and Michael C. Luckman, founder of the Cosmic Majority, will do a live stream. The event also coincides with the Perseid Meteor Shows, which are always spectacular in the high desert.

So, I can agree with Tsoukalos when he says, “It’s definitely going to be a star-studded event.”

A timeline of the desert tortoise’s slow and steady decline

Fish and Wildlife and the San Diego Zoo experimentally translocated juvenile tortoises from the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center to the former Nevada Test Site in 2011. (Courtesy San Diego Zoo)

By Emily Green
High Country News

Kristin Berry's khaki hat flaps in the wind as she bends to inspect the skeleton of a desert tortoise. Remnants of its head and neck are still attached to the carapace, and bleached bones protrude from it. It's been dead for about four years, she suspects, and "appears to have died in a relaxed position," she says, "with its legs out." That suggests starvation and dehydration, but the 70-year-old biologist can't be sure.

It's the second week of April, when wild tortoises typically emerge from hibernation to forage on the spring wildflowers that briefly brighten the Mojave Desert. Berry –– who does long-term research on the desert tortoise for the U.S. Geological Survey –– is the acknowledged authority on where the now-threatened reptiles once thrived.

Because the desert tortoise's Mojave range is largely on federal land, conservationists believe the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) should have better managed the animal's recovery once it was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1989. Instead, the species has steadily declined.

1976 Bureau of Land Management establishes 40-square-mile Desert Tortoise Natural Area in Kern County, Calif.

1980 Beaver Dam Slope colony of desert tortoises near St. George, Utah, listed as "threatened" with 26 square miles designated "critical habitat."

1984 BLM tortoise biologist Kristin Berry releases a report showing an up to 90 percent decline in tortoise numbers across the Mojave in the last century. Causes include military bases, housing, roads, off-road vehicles, predators, fire, invasive plants, guns and pet collection.

1989 Fish and Wildlife lists the species as "endangered" after an outbreak of upper respiratory tract disease, caused by a Mycoplasma bacterium, kills more than 600 animals at the Desert Tortoise Natural Area in Kern County.

1990 Entire Mojave population is listed as "threatened." "Incidental take" permits are granted to Clark County, Nev. developers in exchange for mitigation funding through a habitat conservation plan and creation of the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, a 222-acre Las Vegas holding facility for displaced tortoises.

1991 USFWS opposes expansion of Fort Irwin National Training Center near Barstow, Calif., due to habitat incursion.

1994 USFWS designates 6.4 million acres in Mojave Desert as "critical habitat" for tortoise: 4,750,000 acres in California, 1,220,000 in Nevada, 339,000 in Arizona and 129,000 in Utah, but most types of development are not prohibited. It also releases a recovery plan that discourages relocating tortoises and urges protecting areas throughout the Mojave to preserve genetic diversity.

1996 26,000 BLM acres near the California border are designated as the "Large Scale Translocation Site" for Las Vegas' Desert Tortoise Conservation Center to begin releasing displaced tortoises.

2001 Congress authorizes Fort Irwin's expansion into 87,000 acres of critical habitat.

2003 Fish and Wildlife's 1994 recovery plan is reviewed and scientists who promote translocation and downplay danger of disease are charged with drafting a new plan.

California produces three habitat conservation plans that include 12 million acres in the Mojave to comply with the Endangered Species Act.

2005 The Federal Energy Policy Act calls for 10,000 megawatts of solar, geothermal and wind energy generation on public lands, including much of the Mojave, by 2015.

2008 Fort Irwin moves 571 desert tortoises to 13 sites. California's habitat conservation plans are superseded by a new "Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan."

2009 Fish and Wildlife asks the San Diego Zoo to help clean up over-crowding at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, with plans to release all of its animals if it's closed.

The desert tortoise species Gopherus agassizii is split into two species. Tortoises east of the Colorado River are now designated Gopherus morafkai. This concentrates 70 percent of the federally protected species, Gopherus agassizii, west of the Colorado in California, where the greatest declines are reported.

2011 Fish and Wildlife and the San Diego Zoo experimentally translocate juvenile tortoises from the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center to the former Nevada Test Site; survival rates will be monitored.

2012 BLM field offices in California circulate the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. Fish and Wildlife's Desert Tortoise Recovery Office joins San Diego Zoo in starting to translocate adult tortoises onto BLM land near Las Vegas, anticipating the Center's closure in 2014 but promising to monitor recovery for the next five years. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey's follow-up study of 158 tortoises relocated from Fort Irwin in 2008 shows a five-year survival rate of less than 50 percent.