Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
After reviewing the best available scientific and commercial information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that the Sonoran desert tortoise does not face the threat of extinction and will be removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) candidate list.
The finding is due in part to long term commitments to continued proactive efforts between federal agencies and Arizona Game and Fish Department to identify and address the primary threats to the tortoise. The Service utilized a robust scientific analysis of the desert tortoise status and current and future threats and concluded it does not face extinction now or in the foreseeable future.
Organizations coming together to protect the tortoise include the State of Arizona, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Defense, and National Park Service. Together, stakeholders protect an estimated 73% of potential habitat for the tortoise, with 55% of that protected by interagency agreements committing federal land managers to continuing conservation efforts.
In evaluating the status of the Sonoran desert tortoise, the Service collaborated with experts from public and private sectors to complete a comprehensive status assessment that included advanced geospatial and population viability modeling and forecasting of the current and future threats to the tortoise. Varying combinations of the severity of these threats were projected over the next 100 years and evaluated.
The tortoise has not experienced any significant reduction in its overall range and past population losses are presumed to be limited to urbanization in historical tortoise habitat. Of Arizona’s 1,279 square miles currently designated as urban, not more than five percent was potential tortoise habitat.
The Sonoran desert tortoise will continue to receive state protections as a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by the state of Arizona, and is listed under the Mexican equivalent to the Endangered Species Act as threatened. The collection of wild Sonoran desert tortoises in the United States remains prohibited.
Today’s finding, the Species Status Assessment, Candidate Conservation Agreements, images, and other information about the desert tortoise are available online.