Taxpayers will be forking over $50 million to have the Marines remove nearly 1,200 tortoises from future training grounds in the Mojave Desert, but similar efforts in the past have proven disastrous, say environmentalists.
The desert tortoises, already under stress from drought, disease and human interference, will be airlifted later this month from 130,000 acres surrounding the Corps’ Air Ground Combat Center. The center is undergoing an expansion to facilitate live fire and maneuver training for full-scale Marine Expeditionary Brigade-sized elements.
“This spring, the Marine Corps will translocate approximately 1,180 desert tortoises in order to safeguard the animals coming from lands newly acquired through an NDAA-mandated (National Defense Authorization Act) land withdrawal that supports Marine Corps-mandated training requirements,” base spokesman Capt. Justin Smith wrote in an e-mail to the Desert Sun.
The area slated for expansion is in prime tortoise habitat, and the number of breeding adults has dropped by about 50 percent over the last decade, according to a recent survey by federal biologists.
Some environmentalists are against the pricey effort to relocate the tortoises, which can stress the animals and leave them vulnerable to dehydration, predators and human interaction, they said.