Press Release
Service Seeks Comment on Voluntary Conservation Program to Benefit the Endangered Bolson Tortoise
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ALBEQUERQUE, New Mexico – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is publishing a Notice of Availability of a proposed Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) submitted by N.M, Ranch Properties, INC. for the endangered Bolson tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus) and a draft Environmental Assessment (EA). The proposed SHA would facilitate the release of captive bolson tortoises on the Armendaris Ranch in southern New Mexico, helping establish free-ranging populations in the United States.

“Private landowners have a vital role to play in the conservation of species like the Bolson tortoise,” said Amy Lueders, Regional Director for the Service. “N.M, Ranch Properties, INC. is an important partner in New Mexico, having played a significant role in multiple species conservation efforts. This proposed SHA would allow N.M, Ranch Properties, INC. to contribute to the recovery of the Bolson tortoise while providing N.M, Ranch Properties, INC. protections from future regulations on their lands.”

The largest and rarest of the five North American tortoise species, the Bolson tortoise is thought to have once lived throughout most of the Chihuahuan desert. Habitat loss, human predation, and collection from individuals have resulted in widespread population declines. The Bolson tortoise was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1979. Today, the Bolson tortoise is restricted to a relatively small area of the grasslands of north-central Mexico in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango where it exists in disjoined populations.

In the fall of 2006, 33 orphaned Bolson tortoises were taken into possession by the Service and transported from Arizona to the Armendaris Ranch in New Mexico. In a cooperative, non-commercial effort between Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF) and the Service, a captive conservation population was established under the care of TESF staff. There are approximately 450 tortoises in the captive population now. The proposed SHA would allow for the release and monitoring of approximately 200 of the captive tortoises on the Turner property.

A SHA is a voluntary agreement involving private or other non-federal property owners whose actions contribute to the recovery of species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In exchange for actions that contribute to the recovery of listed species, participating property owners receive formal assurances from the Service that if they fulfill the conditions of the agreement, the Service will not require any additional or different management activities by the participants without their consent. In addition, at the end of the agreement period, participants may return the enrolled property to the baseline conditions that existed at the beginning of the agreement.

The SHA, along with a draft EA, are open to public comment for 30-days. Copies of the SHA application, draft EA, and other related documents can be found at Comments can be submitted via email to The Service will accept comments through March 13, 2023.

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Endangered and/or Threatened species