Nevada Fish & Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region

Desert Tortoise Recovery

Recovery Plan

What does recovery mean related to threatened or endangered species? When a person is injured or has surgery, they often consult with doctors or other experts to develop a plan that will return them to full health and keep them from getting injured again. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife (Service) uses the word "recovery" in a similar way. A "recovery plan" determines the "threats" that are hurting the species, suggests actions that will reduce or eliminate these threats so species can fully recover, and recommends ways to ensure that the population remains stable.

The goal of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to conserve the ecosystems upon which listed species depend and to recover species to levels where protection under the ESA is no longer necessary. Section 4 of the ESA directs the Service to develop recovery plans for the conservation and survival of a listed species.

The 2011 Revised Recovery Plan (5.7 MB PDF) takes a new approach to reversing declines in Mojave desert tortoise populations through a coordinated effort of science-based implementation and evaluation of conservation actions. This revised recovery strategy is a reflection of years of hard work by multiple stakeholders and recognizes the need to modify recovery efforts of the desert tortoise to accommodate changing management needs. The ability to conserve the Mojave population of desert tortoise and lead to eventual recovery of this threatened species depends on science and innovation. Finding a strategy that works alongside renewable energy development, for example, requires a plan that can incorporate new information and ideas.

The revised Plan recognizes the need to adjust to the accelerating pace of environmental change and its impact on key resource management issues, such as corridors and connectivity. The Plan will be a living document that advances a natural resource management model where ongoing detection of changes and attribution of causes will provide the basic information on whether or not the desert tortoise or its ecosystem is changing beyond natural variability.

By continuous examination of vulnerability, exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of the desert tortoise to environmental change, resource managers will be able to update the Plan as it is being implemented with conservation July 15, 2020cover. For example, to address the recent impact of renewable energy on recovery of the desert tortoise, the Service will be adding a chapter to the Plan that focuses on measures related to renewable energy projects. The chapter will make clear what recovery implementation will look like in light of renewable energy development and will provide specific recommendations to ensure recovery and continued habitat connectivity.

Under the Plan, Regional recovery implementation teams will bring together partners from land management, scientific, conservation, and land-use groups to work with the Service to implement, track and evaluate recovery actions. To help teams apply the best available science, the Service has developed a system that explicitly describes the current understanding of what threatens tortoise populations and how recovery actions are predicted to reduce those threats. The system tracks where those actions will have the greatest benefits and where conservation actions have occurred. Teams can compare the performance of on-the-ground actions with what was expected to inform future decisions, and change the course of action as necessary.

Key elements of the revised plan include the following:
  • Develop, support, and build partnerships to facilitate recovery;
  • Protect existing populations and habitat, instituting habitat restoration where necessary;
  • Augment depleted populations in a strategic, experimental manner;
  • Monitor progress toward recovery, including population trend and effectiveness monitoring;
  • Conduct applied research and modeling in support of recovery efforts within a strategic framework; and
  • Implement a formal adaptive management program that integrates new information and utilizes conceptual models that link management actions to predicted responses by Mojave desert tortoise populations or their habitat.

    Recovery Planning

  • 2011 Revised Rocovery Plan for the Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) (5.7 MB PDF)
  • 2010 Five-Year Review (2.3 MB PDF)
  • 2004 Recovery Plan Assessment (8.4 MB PDF)
  • 1994 Recovery Plan

    Misc. Reports and Documents

  • Threats to Desert Tortoise Populations: A Critical Review of the Literature (USGS - 2002)
  • 2002 GAO Report on the Desert Tortoise Recovery Program (.5 MB PDF)
    Last updated: July 15, 2020
    July 15, 2020