The Clark County Desert Conservation Program (DCP) is responsible for compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act and for implementing the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). The desert tortoise, a federally threatened species, is identified as a priority species in the MSHCP, and as such, many of the DCP’s actions support or enhance the long-term survivability and recovery of this species in Clark County. As the Program Administrator for the MSHCP, the DCP has been an active participant in several efforts dedicated to the recovery of desert tortoises in the wild. Below is a summary of the DCP’s involvement in recovery planning.
Desert Tortoise Management Oversight Group. The Desert Tortoise Management Oversight Group (MOG) was established in 1998 following the listing of the desert tortoise. The MOG includes representatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of Defense, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service, and is charged with ensuring that data analysis procedures are standardized, establishing funding and research priorities, ensuring that various reports are prepared, and reviewing existing and new laws and plans relating to desert tortoises. In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the Desert Tortoise Recovery Office (DTRO), which now serves as the principal clearinghouse for research and monitoring of the desert tortoise. The DTRO works with the Desert Tortoise MOG in coordinating range-wide issues and works with other local, state, or regional working groups, such as the Clark County MSHCP. The DTRO organizes regular meeting of the MOG, which federal, state, and local land managers, including Clark County DCP, attend. Topics discussed at these meetings include the status of monitoring efforts and planned management actions.
Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Assessment Committee. DCP staff participated in the Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Assessment Committee (DTRPAC). The DTRPAC was appointed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2003 and was tasked with evaluating the 1994 Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan. The goal of this assessment was to provide a scientific and technical review of the 1994 Recovery Plan and to provide a summary of the current state of scientific knowledge regarding tortoise recovery. The Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Assessment was finalized in October 2004.
Revised Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan. Following the recovery plan assessment, the 1994 Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan was revised using many of the recommendations set forth in the Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Assessment. DCP staff participated in the development of the revised recovery plan by attending planning workshops and open houses, providing reviews of informal drafts, and providing formal comment on the draft plan revision. In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued the Revised Recovery Plan for the Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii).
Northeast Mojave Recovery Implementation Team. Under the revised Recovery Plan, regional Recovery Implementation Teams (RITs) were created to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement, track, and evaluate recovery actions. Three RITs have been established: the California RIT, the North East Mojave RIT, and the Upper Virgin River RIT. RIT teams are comprised of partners from land management, scientific, conservation, and land-use groups. The RITs are tasked with tracking recovery actions that are predicted to reduce threats to desert tortoise survival, with determining where conservation actions will have the greatest benefits, and comparing performance of on-the-ground actions with expected results to inform future decisions. The FWS Regional Director appointed a representative of the DCP to the North East Mojave RIT in 2012 and the DCP has participated in numerous RIT workshops and webinars to develop a threats assessment and actions plan for the recovery of the desert tortoise.