Protecting the Sonoran Desert Tortoise

The Sonoran Desert tortoise is a newly recognized tortoise species found in desert scrub habitats in Arizona and Mexico, east and south of the Colorado River. In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found in a preliminary assessment the tortoise is “warranted” for endangered species protections. Further reviews in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 reaffirmed the “warranted” finding, but the Service reversed its position in a 2015 assessment later used to deny protections for the Sonoran Desert tortoise.

The Service’s flip-flop occurred with no new science to back it up. The decision not to provide protections for the tortoise was based on incomplete analysis that didn’t cover all threats, as well as faulty assumptions and speculation. As a result of our legal advocacy, the Service agreed to restore the Sonoran Desert tortoise’s status as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protections, and reconsider listing this gentle desert dweller. Candidate status confers protections to the tortoise until a final decision is made.

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