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Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, Inc.

Preliminary Application Comments

 This email is to voice support for two proposals submitted to your organization that would be conducted within the Desert Tortoise Nature Area (DTNA), that is; 1) the installation of desert tortoise-proof fencing along the pre-existing fence line along the boundary of the DTNA, and 2) the purchase and installation of new signs in areas where people have driven into the existing fence around the DTNA and for repair/replacement of the damaged fences. Both proposals are excellent ideas and would be of benefit to the OHV community as well as to the DTNA.

The roads around the DTNA are an ever-increasingly busy area as it is very popular with the OHV recreationists and are feeling the impact of the heavy OHV traffic. These two proposals would allow the two communities, i.e., the OHV recreationists and the DTNA, to coexist in the same area in more harmony with each other. New signs would also improve safety for the OHV cyclists.

I hope that you will give these two proposals your consideration and funding.  [Pat Sorensen - 4/6/09]

 I would like to extend my support for the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee (DTPC) grant applications. The DTPC plays a vital role in protecting the Desert Tortoise population in some of it's prime habitat. The fence signs are very important for the safety of OHVers and the exclusion fence is important for the safety of the tortoises in high traffic areas. Please fund this grant.  Thank you. [Carrie  Woods - 4/6/09]

 We both support the grant applications by the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee and by Dr. Kristen Berry for research in the DTNA for the Desert Managers Group to protect this unique and endangered species. Having grown up in the Mojave Desert, I am well acquainted w/this special creature and have seen the devastation from OHV's in the desert. I wish there were no OHV's allowed anywhere, but realize the futility of this. Please protect this important resource. [Anne & Don Wheeler - 4/6/09]

 The Bureau of Land Management fully supports the proposals of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee for construction of tortoise exclusion fencing and placement of signs on the perimeter of the Desert Tortoise Natural Area.

The preserve for protection of the desert tortoise is adjacent to a heavily used OH V area. The desert tortoises cross the boundary and become vulnerable to potential vehicle collisions. In addition, the vehicles sometimes cross the boundary in trespass and additional signs would make the location of the legal riding areas more explicit, as well as assisting with enforcement. This on-the-ground project represents a very good use of state funds. [Dr. Larry LaPre, District Wildlife Biologist, California Desert District, BLM - 4/6/09]

 I am writing to urge support of several proposed projects in the Desert Tortoise Natural Area (DTNA). Please approve funding for the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee proposals for the installation of desert tortoise proof fencing along pre-existing fence along the boundary of the DTNA and its roads, along with the related proposal to purchase and install new signs in areas where people have driven into the fence and for the replacement of fences damaged by weather and vandalism. Please also support another grant proposal submitted by the BLM California Desert District to fund large plot desert tortoise monitoring within the interior of the DTNA. [Derek Wallentinsen - 4/5/09]

 I would like to submit comments in favor of ORV money being used to enhance the DTNA. I attended a ORV comment session in Whittier as an Audubon Representative that was funded by the ORV money. The organized off road culture wants their image as anti environmentalist changed and/or improved. Funding projects within the DTNA will certainly help them toward that goal. They know that unless they change their public image and do a better job of educating and policing the ORV criminal fringe they won't make any gains in California. I have always heard representatives of the ORV agenda say they are really environmentalist. Funding projects at the Natural Area in California City would do them credit and be good for their public relations. Could you please forward this message to the comment website as my computer doesn't deal with passwords on secure sites. [Letty Brooks - 4/5/09]

 I am in favor of using available in funding from California's Off Highway Motorized Vehicle Divsion for projects in the Desert Tortoise Natural Area (DTNA). It is important to help desert tortoises to maintain their populations. [Penelope LePome - 4/4/09]

 Please support the following grants to help protect the Desert Tortoises in the Desert Tortoise Natural Area (DTNA)

1. A grant to install tortoise proof fencing along the pre-existing fence along the boundary of the DTNA. This will keep tortoises out of areas heavily traveled by OHVs.

2. A grant to replace fencing around the DTNA that has been damaged by weather and vandalism and to install signs designating the protected area.

3. A grant submitted by Dr. Kristen Berry of USGS to fund monitoring of tortoises within the DTNA.

These grants will protect the tortoises.  If the tortoises can thrive in the DTNA this will diminish need to close more areas to OHV traffic.  If OHV people know the boundaries of the DTNA, most all of them will respect the area. [Don Peterson - 4/4/09]

 Please consider these comments support for the following grant applications that are necessary for the preservation of the Desert Tortoise Natural Area.

The DTNA needs to be completely fence for the Tortoises within the Natural Area to be safe from OHV traffic. Not only does existing fencing need to have additional Tortoise proofing added, but signing needs to be added in areas where OHV have driven into existing fencing. Increasing OHV traffic in the preserve area makes this critical to Desert Tortoise conservation.

An additional grant application from the BLM California Desert District to monitor Desert Tortoises within the DTNA should also be supported with California Off Highway Vehicle Division Funding. [Robert Westbrook - 4/4/09]

 I write to support two grant applications related to the Desert Tortoise Natural Area, one to add tortoise fencing and repair existing fencing and signage on boundaries of the DTNA, and the other to support Dr. Berry's research involving large plots on the interior of the DTNA. These ancient creatures are increasingly threatened by development that brings in dogs and ravens that prey heavily on young tortoises, and the invasion of non-native plants that provide a diet to which the tortoise is not adapted. We have much to learn about how these creatures survive in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Most important, we didn't create these animals, the Creator did, and it is up to us to protect and preserve them so that future generations can marvel at these wonders of the desert. Protecting the tortoises near the boundaries of the of the DTNA by improving and maintaining fencing, and finding out more about how they live, are worthwhile projects and can yield benefits far beyond the small costs of these grants. [Linda Anderson - 4/3/09]

 I am submitting these comments in support of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee’s Ground Operations grant proposals for fencing and signing for the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area (DTNA). The benefits from additional fencing of currently protected desert tortoise critical habitat areas in the West Mojave Desert will be multiple. Increased protection for the existing tortoise population in the DTNA will provide respite from many of the current threats to the population and will help in the recovery of the species, leading to decreased pressure on OHV recreational users in the West Mojave Desert and preserve future sustainable recreational opportunities. By providing notification of impending fence lines and information on desert tortoise resources, additional signing will address both safety and educational issues associated with sustainable OHV management. I commend the OHMVR Division for addressing the many issues associated with recreational use in the desert biomes and supporting sustainable management.  [Ron L. Gartland - 4/3/09]

 I urge you to accept the two grant proposals submitted by the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee and the grant proposal by Dr. Kristen Berry to provide fencing, signing and monitoring around and within the Desert Tortoise Natural Area. If multiple uses of the desert are going to continue, funds from the OHV sticker fees should help safeguard this critical habitat. The signs will also help protect motorcyclists by warning f fences and hopefully preventing collisions. Good fences make good neighbors.

The areas purchased with mitigation funds should be enclosed with tortoise proof fencing to protect the tortoises from vehicles on the surrounding roads. The existing fences should also be repaired to keep motorcyclists off the Desert Tortoise Natural Area. If motorcyclists cannot respect areas set aside for wildlife, more areas will have to be closed as future developments affect more and more of the desert. Suitable abitat for the desert tortoise, burrowing owl and mojave ground squirrel habitat, is becoming scarce. We need to protect what has already been set aside from irresponsible riders in order to keep areas opens for those who use the trails and roads responsibly. [Jane McEwan - 4/3/09]

 As one of the co-founders of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee, the Department is in support of these applications. Anthropogenic pressure have increased around the Desert Tortoise Natural Area (DTNA) in the recent year. Two papers published in the December 2002 Chelonian Conservation and Biology - International Journal Of Turtle and Tortoise Research deal with the issues of impacts of roads and OHV on tortoise populations. Both have been demonstrated to have a negative impact on this state and federally listed threatened species. By place tortoise fencing and signs around the DTNA it will protect tortoises from being injured or kill, provide education and allow the area surrounding to be sustained for recreational uses. [Becky Jones - 4/3/09]

 I am writing in support of the application for grant funding for the Desert Tortoise Preserve. The Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee has been dedicated in protecting the Desert Tortoise and it's natural habitat. In trying to reduce the negative impacts on the Desert Tortoise and other wildlife and the critical habitat in which they share, there are many challenges. Additional signage would improve recognition of the preserve to OHV riders and also may help to reduce the number of collisions these riders may have with the fencing around the habitat. Funding for additional fencing is extremely important, as the fencing is critical in providing protection for the wildlife which lives within its boundaries. It is important that we recognize that the threats to the Desert Tortoise and it's natural habitat are many. The grant could successfully contribute to reducing the negative impact on the Desert Tortoise, not to mention help to reduce the negative impact on other wildlfife and native plants which are vital to a healthy habitat for the tortoise. I support the full funding of this grant. [Kim Vespa - 4/3/09]

 Hello. My name is Brendan Hughes and I would like to express my support for the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee's grant application. These requests for funds for fencing and signing will help protect areas of sensitive habitat as well as the safety of OHV users. I believe this grant application should be fully funded. [Brendan Hughes - 3/30/09]

 As a desert resident of an area that is has a high number of tortoise population. I support the preservation of this threatened species. However, I do not support Off Highway Vehicle funds being used to fence public lands.

There is no concrete evidence that OHVs are a substantial threat to the desert tortoise. Therefore,OHV funds would be wrongly allocated to attempt to protect an animal that is threatened by Non OHV related predators and sickness.

I am personal witness to wasteful spending on fencing, Near were I reside, There are fences that make no sense and miles of double fences that could be left as single. There are literally fences inside of areas already fenced.  [Wayne Nosala - 3/29/09]

 I have a few questions and reservations about the ground operations grants requested by the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee.

While I certainly agree that adequate signage and fencing may be necessary to protect the desert tortoise, I don't understand how this would directly increase OHV activity or opportunity.

Question 2 - Failure to Complete - on the Evaluation Criteria sheet of both the Fencing and Signs application:

The Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee awarded themselves (6) points in each application. They claim that the failure to complete both these projects would result in the loss of OHV opportunity, although the area is already closed to OHV activity, and has been for some time. Their reasoning seems to rely on possible losses if incursions would occur in this area due to incomplete fencing or signage. Yet in their Signs Application, it is clear that incursions are not taking place at the moment, and the need for the signs is due to signs being old,weathered, and/or vandalized. Correcting this signage will not result in increased OHV opportunity. Also, The Committee wants fund for signage to direct people to the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area itself. This also is not directly or even indirectly associated with OHV recreation. The Committee wants a new sign because tourists can't readily find their preserve. That's not an OHV problem.

I can sooner understand the relationship between fencing and OHV opportunity, and yet the major problem relating to OHV recreation as described in their application seems to be accidents occurring specifically in one area. I would suggest that perhaps that area alone need to be strengthened, and the entire fence does not need to be replaced by OHV trust funds.

OHV opportunity, and the loss of such, would be a small side benefit to both of these projects. Ground Operations grants should be reserve for actual trail work that will benefit OHV trails that are sorely in needs of funds for maintenance.  [Amy Granat - 3/22/09]

 Thank you for taking the time to review and comment of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee's (Committee) grant application.  We sincerely value your input on the important issue of determining the best use for the OHV funds.

You are correct that the desert tortoise will be protected by the desert tortoise exclusion fencing and the new signs. We feel strongly that OHV recreation in the area would benefit as well. Almost 50% of the visitors to the Desert Tortoise Natural Area (DTNA) are OHV recreationests. Due to the high rate of visitation by OHV recreationists, the Committee strongly believes that any improvements made to the DTNA will inherently benefit OHV recreation.

Only a small portion of the signs would be used to replace old, weather damaged signs. The large majority would be placed on newly fenced areas, not areas that have been closed for years. The new fencing has been damaged a total of 13 times to date. I would like to be very clear here when I state that these were unintentional fence strikes. This means that people are accidentally running in to the fence. Signing this area adequately would function primarily to protect OHV riders, not the desert tortoise, as currently no desert tortoises live in the newly fenced area. Signs are extremely expensive and the Committee really needs this grant support to help keep riders safe, especially near Camp C and at the newly fenced entrance of the DTNA.

Although this project does not result in increased OHV activity, it does function to keep the existing activity areas functioning as safely as possible. Additionally, direct loss of tortoises through collisions and illegal collections and direct loss of habitat that results from riders straying off route only serve to increase pressure on existing riding routes. For the record we have had illegal incursions of riders into the DTNA in 2008. Protecting the existing habitat and species adequately ensures that riders in California City keep their existing routes and keep the DTNA which they visit on a regular basis.

To more specifically address you fencing concerns we are not requesting funds to add any new fencelines to the area or to replace existing fencing. Our grant is to support the addition of desert tortoise exclusion fencing to existing fencelines near roads that are experiencing increased rates of OHV recreation. The existing fencing allows tortoises to move freely into and out of the DTNA. Our proposal is to add exclusion fencing to the bottom part of the existing fence that will prohibit desert tortoises from wandering into the high traffic areas. This is a common practice along many highways and roads throughout the range of the desert tortoise. To learn more about desert tortoise exclusion fencing please see the Desert Tortoise Fencing Diagram on the Fish & Wildlife website. You stated that, "Ground Operations grants should be reserved for actual trail work that will benefit OHV trails that are sorely in need of funds for maintenance". According to the Grants & Cooperative Agreemants manual distributed by the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division projects defined as "Ground Operations" do include necessary re-routing of roads and trails. However "Ground Operations" by definition also include facility servicing (painting, cleaning restrooms, re-roffing, repairing of electrical systems, and maintaining kiosks), regulatory and directional trails and signs, repaving existing parking lots, implementing best management practices (erosion and sediment control), habitat management plan implementation (this supports our fencing project), and soil conservation. We believe that our application falls squarely within the guidleines of a "Ground Operations" project.

Again thank you for your comment on our grant application. Peer review can only improve the application process to ensure that OHV money is spent properly. Please let me know if you have any additional concerns or questions about the application. [Melissa Nicholson - 4/2/90]