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Monday, July 28, 2014
Desert Conservation Program: FAQ

 DCP- Frequently Asked Questions

Use the links below to jump to a specific answer or read all of the questions and answers.

Q: What is the Clark County Desert Conservation Program & the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP)?

Q: What area is covered by the MSHCP?

Q: What species are covered by the MSHCP? What habitat types?

Q: Does the MSHCP rely on adjoining land uses?

Q: What are the goals & objectives of the MSHCP?

Q: What will the MSHCP do for listed species?

Q: What will the MSHCP do for unlisted species?

Q: What provision is made for funding the MSHCP?

Q: Does the MSHCP comply with or require changes to other applicable laws? 

Q: How long will the MSHCP last?

Q: How will the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know if the MSHCP is being implemented?

Q: How will the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know if the MSHCP works?

Q: What if the MSHCP doesn't work?

Q: Can I keep my pet tortoise?

Q: What is the proper care for my pet tortoise?

Q: Can I adopt a desert tortoise?

Q: What can I do to help?

Q: What do I do if I find a desert tortoise wandering in developed areas?

Q: What do I do if I find a desert tortoise in the desert?

Q: When and how do developers pay the mitigation fee?

Q: How do I report illegal activity?

Q: Why don't I see wildlife in the desert? 

Q: Who is Mojave Max? 

Questions & Answers:

Q: What is the Clark County Desert Conservation Program & the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP)?

A- Clark County, as Plan Administrator and on behalf of our fellow permittees: the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City, Mesquite and the Nevada Department of Transportation, is responsible for compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act, compliance with a Section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permit, and for implementing the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

An incidental take permit exempts a permittee from the take prohibition of Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act and is issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act.  The permit authorizes take of protected species that may be incidental to, but not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities.

A habitat conservation plan, commonly referred to as an HCP, is a planning document that is a mandatory component of an incidental take permit application.  An HCP ensures that the authorized take will be adequately minimized and mitigated.  You can find the plan and permit documents here.

Q: What area is covered by the MSHCP?

A- The MSHCP's Section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permit covers all non-Federal (private, municipal, State) lands within Clark County and NDOT activities in areas within Clark, Nye, Lincoln and Esmeralda Counties south of the 38th parallel and below 5,000 feet in elevation.  You can find a map of the MSHCP Plan Area here.

Q: What species are covered by the MSHCP? What habitat types? 

A- 78 species are covered by the MSHCP's Section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permit (14 reptiles, 1 amphibian, 8 birds, 4 mammals, 8 insects, 2 crustaceans and 41 plants.)  Of these, two are listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act, the threatened desert tortoise and the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.  A complete list of covered species appears at the end of this document. Conservation actions for the MSHCP focus on conservation of the habitat of covered species.  Habitats for covered species are described and summarized within 11 ecosystem categories: alpine, bristlecone pine, mixed conifer, pinyon-juniper, sagebrush, blackbrush, salt desert scrub, Mojave desert scrub, mesquite/catclaw, and desert aquatic/riparian.  You can find a map of these ecosystem categories here. 

Q: Does the MSHCP rely on adjoining land uses?

A- The MSHCP uses a reserve system consisting of public land (primarily Federal) areas defined by their kinds and levels of management as it affects Covered Species.  These conservation management areas are defined in section 2.4.2.7 (page 2.74) of the MSHCP as Intensively Managed Areas (IMAs), Less Intensively Managed Areas (LIMAs), Multiple Use Managed Areas (MUMAs) and Unmanaged Areas (UMAs).  The IMAs and LIMAs represent the "reserve system" in Clark County, with MUMAs providing conservation value as corridors, connections and buffers for the IMAs and LIMAs where management preserves the quality of habitat sufficient to allow for unimpeded use and migration of the resident species in the IMAs and LIMAs. You can find a map of the conservation management areas here .

Q: What are the goals & objectives of the MSHCP?

A- The general measurable biological goals for each covered species are listed in table 2.5, page 2.153 of the MSHCP.  In summary, the goal for each covered species is no net unmitigated loss or fragmentation of habitat, primarily within IMA and LIMA, or MUMA where a substantial proportion of the species habitat occurs within MUMA.  In addition, the MSHCP has a general goal of stable or increasing populations of covered species. Measurable biological objectives broadly include (a) maintenance of the long-term net habitat value of the ecosystems in Clark County with a particular emphasis on Covered Species, and (b) recovery of listed species and conservation of unlisted Covered Species. Appendixes A and B of the Plan contain the current evaluation of habitat values within each ecosystem and for each species.

Q: What will the MSHCP do for listed species?

A- The MSHCP provides balance between allowing incidental take of listed, covered species and long-term conservation and recovery of those species and their habitat.  The conservation and recovery of covered species is accomplished through a suite of 604 potential conservation actions that minimize, mitigate or monitor the impacts of take.  The MSHCP has also been designed to maximize flexibility and available options in developing mitigation and conservation programs (MSHCP section 1.1, page 1.3).  By addressing the habitat need of covered species, the MSHCP also seeks to effectively mitigate future potential impacts on and assist in the recovery of a broad range of other species residing in all of the habitats located within the County (MSHCP section 1.2.1, page 1.5).

Q: What will the MSHCP do for unlisted species?

A- Section 1.2.1 of the MSHCP states that the MSHCP "addresses the ESA Section 10 criteria for all Covered Species" and "treats all such Covered Species as though those species were listed for the purposes of this plan, thereby providing for future incidental take of those species." (page 1.5)

Q: What provision is made for funding the MSHCP?

A- Section 2.1.9 of the MSHCP describes the $550 per acre disturbance fee to be paid for each non-municipal acre (up to 130,000) disturbed under the MSHCP Section 10(a)(1)(B) permit.  These fees are collected by the permittees (County, NDOT, Cities of  Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite, and North Las  Vegas) and collectively administered by the County in an endowment fund.   These funds would be used to implement the MSHCP.  In addition, external funding sources may be used to augment the section 10 funds.  External sources currently include Section 7 funds and Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act funds designated for the development of Multiple Species Habitat Conservation plan in Clark County.

Q: Does the MSHCP comply with or require changes to other applicable laws?

A- The MSHCP complies with applicable laws.  When initiated, the MSHCP required amendments to two Federal agency land use plans, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area General Management Plan and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area General Management Plan. 

Q: How long will the MSHCP last?

A- The term of the permit is for 30 years effective February 2001, for a maximum of 145,000 acres disturbed. 

Q: How will the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know if the MSHCP is being implemented?

A- Through regular reports such as the Biennial Progress Report and a biennial Adaptive Management Report. You can find these reports posted here.

Q: How will U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know if the MSHCP works?

A- The MSHCP's Adaptive Management Program is to evaluate the effectiveness of implementation actions and make recommendations for any changes in implementation in each Adaptive Management Report. You can find these reports here

Q: What if the MSHCP doesn't work?

A- If the MSHCP Section 10(a)(1)(B) permit is revoked, the Desert Conservation Plan and it's Section 10(a)(1)(B) permit remains in effect for take of desert tortoise in Clark County.  Additional take of desert tortoise beyond that covered by the Desert Conservation Plan, or for other listed species, would be applied for separately by each land owner.

Q: Can I keep my pet tortoise?

A- Tortoises held legally prior to August 4, 1989 may be kept in captivity. In Nevada, these tortoises may be kept without a license or permit.   Tortoises in captivity after 1989 must be obtained through a US Fish and Wildlife Service authorized adoption program.  Contact Tortoise Group at 702-739-7113 or Tortoisegroup.org for more information.  Pet tortoises may not be taken across state lines without written permission from the Nevada Division of Wildlife 702-486-5127. Permission from the appropriate agency of the state you are traveling to may also be required. It is illegal to buy or sell a desert tortoise. Pet tortoises are not to be released into the desert.

Q: What is the proper care for my pet tortoise?

A- Tortoises are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The US Fish and Wildlife Service makes the determination on how these reptiles are best cared for. You can contact them at 775-861-6300 or visit their website:  http://www.fws.gov/nevada/desert_tortoise/index.html.

Q: Can I adopt a desert tortoise?

A- Tortoises can be legally adopted by Clark County residents. Contact Tortoise Group at 702-739-7113 or Tortoisegroup.org for more information.

Q: What can I do to help?

A- While enjoying the desert, you can make a positive difference by staying on roads, not littering, and by not disturbing wildlife or their habitat.

Q: What do I do if I find a desert tortoise wandering in developed areas?

A- If you find a tortoise in harms way in urban areas the tortoise can be taken to The Animal Foundation (Lied Animal Shelter) at 655 North Mojave Road.  Tortoises found in undeveloped areas are not to be touched.

Q: What do I do if I find a desert tortoise in the desert?

A- Wild tortoises are protected under the Endangered Species Act.   Tortoises in undeveloped desert or on roads through undeveloped desert areas are not to be collected without a permit.  If the tortoise is in danger from road traffic, you may pick it up, hold it level, and move it several yards beyond the road edge in the direction in which the tortoise was heading.  Otherwise, wild tortoises are not to be touched.

Q: When and how do developers pay the mitigation fee?

A- Prior to development on private property in Clark County, the developer must obtain a grading or building permit from the appropriate city or county agency.  The permitting office will collect a mitigation fee of $550 per acre, if one has not previously been paid.  See our Pay Disturbance Fee page for more details.  This is a one-time fee that funds the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Program.  This program provides conservation for plant and animal species.  As long as developers comply with the law and secure proper permits prior to development, they are not required to remove tortoises prior to disturbing land.  Tortoise removal is voluntary.  However, a tortoise must never be intentionally killed or harmed.  If developers wish to remove tortoises prior to disturbing land, they should call 702-455-4181 for a list of agencies authorized to remove tortoises from development sites.  If a tortoise is removed from a development site, it must be handled in a humane manner.  This includes preventing death from overheating by immediately placing it in a cool place.  A dark box with a ventilated lid is suitable.  The tortoise must then be turned over to the Tortoise Pick-up service.  Call 702-593-9027 and a representative will pick up the tortoise.  No tortoise may be removed for personal use.

Q: How do I report illegal activity?

A- For immediate response to any desert violation, please call toll free 1-877-293-8998.

Q: Why don't I see wildlife in the desert?

A- Much of the wildlife in Southern Nevada is nocturnal, and comes out only at night.  Furthermore, many of the reptiles of the desert spend most of their lives in underground burrows.  Reptiles seek shelter to escape the scorching heat of summer in the Mojave Desert.  Therefore, you may see desert temperatures drastically decline in October and November each year.  Desert tortoises, being reptiles, experience declining body temperatures during this time and they go into brumation (the reptilian form of hibernation).  This period of sleep usually lasts about 4-6 months and is followed by the tortoise coming out of hibernation in the spring.

Q: Who is Mojave Max? 

A- Mojave Max is a real tortoise.  He lives at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in the tortoise habitat near the visitors center.  In the spring of 2000, the first Mojave Max contest was held.  Students of the Las Vegas Valley were encouraged to estimate the time Mojave Max would first exit his burrow after hibernation.  This successful event had thousands of students in the Valley researching Mojave desert temperatures and desert tortoise habits.  This event is significant because it draws attention to the seasons of the Mojave Desert and the responses of desert wildlife.  Many plants and animals have a dormant period each year that is brought on by declining desert temperatures.  Plants and animals of the Mojave Desert must adapt to changing temperatures and erratic rainfall to survive.  More information on the Mojave Max Emergence Contest is available at www.mojavemax.com.