The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking public comment on a proposal to uplist the Mojave Desert Tortoise from threatened to endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
The Mojave Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is found in the Mojave Desert, the western Sonoran Desert and the southern Great Basin Desert. They spend much of the year underground in burrows to shelter from extreme temperatures. When they do emerge, they feed on native grasses. Their densities have declined drastically in many places in California in the past 20 years. Threats include habitat fragmentation, development in these desert regions, increasing drought due to climate change, invasive grasses out-competing food items preferred by tortoise, disease, predation by coyotes and ravens, and human-caused mortality.
In March 2020, the Defenders of Wildlife submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to formally uplist the Mojave Desert Tortoise as an endangered species under CESA. The Commission published findings of its decision to advance the species to candidacy on Oct. 14, 2020, triggering a period during which CDFW will conduct a status review to inform the Commission’s decision on whether to uplist the species.
As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting public comment regarding the species’ ecology, biology, life history, distribution, abundance, threats and habitat that may be essential for the species, and any recommendations for management. Comments, data and other information can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If submitting comments by email, please include “Mojave Desert Tortoise” in the subject heading.
Comments may also be submitted by mail to: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Diversity Program, Attn: Anne Hilborn, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090.
All comments received by June 10, 2022 will be evaluated prior to submission of the CDFW report to the Commission. Receipt of the report will be placed on the agenda for the next available meeting of the Commission after delivery and the report will be made available to the public at that time. Following the receipt of the CDFW report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on the petition.
CDFW’s Mohave Desert Tortoise petition evaluation report can be found on the CDFW website.