Imperiled California Desert Tortoise ‘Under Siege’






  1. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    Having read this article in the LA Times on Sunday,5/11/2008, I have some comments.

    Having served on the BLM’s Rand Mountains Desert Tortoise Technical Review Team,(1986-91) I was very aware of the issues with the tortoise and its supporters. At the time, Kirstin Berry was working for the BLM as chief tortoise researcher. She was the TRT’s chief advisor.

    We were just about finished with the Plan when the tortoise was listed. We had to start over. Here is where Kristen really made her presence known. She was very outspoken and ridgid. It was her way or no way. We still got the plan finished and approved by FWS in 1991.

    Ft Irwin was proposing expansion to the south as early as 1988. They also knew that this land contained prime tortoise habitat. The BLM should have protested the land grab more robustly. We have seen the results of translocations of various species and that it does not work with certainty. Dr. Berry should have known this as many species were translocated and ended in failure. If she had acted more prudently, she would have experimented with just a few tortoises to see what the outcome would be. She probably found out that the tortoises wuould try to return to their place of origin. She probably would have found out that coyotes depradate on tortoises.

    It is unfortunate that Dr. Berry did not have the forsight to find out these outcomes prior to mass translocations of tortoises. Now the Army will take over this area and probably kill many tortoises in the process.

    The tortoise is listed as threatened. While the Army and our furry friend, the coyote, will take many tortoises, I don’t feel that the species is endangered of extinction. But development of any kind, reduces habitat for all wildlife species. Hopefully for the tortoise, this will not happen again.



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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