Establishing Desert Tortoise Preserves

Establishing Desert Tortoise Preserves in areas of prime Habitat

The Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee acquires land for tortoise preserves in areas of prime habitat using funds raised from the public, from conservation mitigation efforts, and through the operation of a land bank.

The Committee was instrumental in establishing the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area in Kern County, California. Within the designated boundary of this preserve lies 39.5 square miles of prime habitat that historically supported one of the highest tortoise population densities known. When it was first established in 1976 it included 16 square miles of habitat that was privately held. Since then, the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, Bureau of Land Management, and California Department of Fish and Game have acquired a further 14 square miles leaving 2 square miles of small parcels in private hands. The Committee continues to acquire these parcels as they become available.

In 1995, the Committee and The Wildlands Conservancy bought out the 1,360 acre Blackwater Well Ranch in northwestern San Bernardino County, and gained control of grazing on the 49,000 acre (76.6 square miles) Pilot Knob cattle grazing allotment. Pilot Knob allotment includes mainly public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Committee is working with the BLM to develop a long-term plan for the management of biological resources, resource conservation, and restoration of critical habitat for the desert tortoise on the Pilot Knob Allotment. The Committee is seeking to permanently retire the grazing permit on the allotment. Pilot Knob offers an excellent opportunity to evaluate measures aimed at ecosystem and critical habitat recovery.