Author: Alan

Desert Tortoise Conservation in Utah

Desert Tortoise Conservation in Utah

Letters to the Editor: Desert tortoises mattered before they faced extinction

I have a profound respect for all desert tortoises that have lived on Utah’s northern plains and has made them a special part of my life. Desert tortoise conservation began in Utah years ago when I first visited the state. In the early 1980s, I traveled down to Arches National Park, where I had seen several dozen desert tortoises, and was delighted to know that there were some living in this great desert oasis.

Utah’s most recent population estimate for the desert tortoise came from an April 12, 2001 news article by Paul T. Gellin in the Salt Lake Tribune. There were only about 35 desert tortoises in Utah that year.

In the last decade, desert tortoise populations in the state have increased dramatically. Today, Utah has more than 2,000 desert tortoises.

I have been involved with desert tortoise conservation since 1979. When I first started working with desert tortoises, I was the president of the Utah Tortoise Conservancy (now the Utah Tortoise Conservation Association). Since then, I have served on the Utah Desert tortoise Committee (now Desert Tortoise Conservation Committee), which I co-chaired with Don Bivins, Utah’s former Secretary of State, and Gary P. Henson, a former State Representative.

During my tenure with the committee, we have worked diligently to protect the desert tortoise from overexploitation. Our efforts have resulted in the creation of the Desert Tortoise Recovery Project, which is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The project operates on a three-phased approach to bring greater attention to the plight of threatened desert tortoises.

Stage one was the establishment of the Desert Tortoise Recovery Project. Stage two, which began in 2001, is the establishment of a permanent habitat and monitoring program that will help to determine the population status of the desert tortoise in the state of Utah. While there remain many outstanding questions regarding the desert tortoise’s current status and projected future, the work of the Desert Tortoise Recovery Project can lay the groundwork for future population

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