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The California Desert Land Conservancy (dba The Mojave Desert Land Trust)

Preliminary Application Comments

 I am commenting on behalf of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. We fulfill our mission to protect the Mojave Desert ecosystem and cultural and scenic resources through land acquisition, stewardship, and education. We have acquired over 13,000 acres of private inholdings within the desert national parks and are in the process of transferring ownership of the acreage to the National Park Service (NPS). After transfer we continue our stewardship responsibilities in partnership with the NPS. Some of these parcels are desert tortoise habitat and show evidence of continuing abuse by illegal off road riding.

Before transferring land to the NPS the damage is erased or disguised, although restoration of the tortoise habitat is problematical. In addition to the purchase price, the Land Trust invests additional and hard earned funds and time to train and supervise volunteer stewards to monitor the acreage and perform restoration activities.

With that background, you can understand how important the Joshua Tree National Park Tortoise Education Program is to our mission. All our funds, monitoring, and restoration is an exercise in futility if it is not complimented by education. Hundreds of thousands of OHV recreation hours are enjoyed in the desert. Enthusiastic riders arrive from multiple entry points bringing with them diverse backgrounds of desert understanding. Reaching them with a compelling message is difficult and ongoing. Before the multipronged Desert Tortoise Education Program began in 2005, desert wide tortoise outreach was stunning in its silence. Since then, much has been done using many formats and venues including school presentations and events (Mojave Max Emergence Contest), widely disseminated brochures, public service announcements, dissemination of program products to military personnel training and recreating in the desert, and the distribution of materials to the building contractors working on the military bases. The ongoing success of this project relies on the combination of talented staff supported by the incredible resources of the Desert Managers Group and its individual members. The power of this combination to achieve important outreach cannot be duplicated.

This desert wide, multifaceted, and coordinated Program is critical for the desert tortoise and we urge continued funding at the level requested.

Thanks you for the opportunity to comment on this important program. [Pat Flanagan  - 4/1/09]