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© Jason Mohap

Mojave

Threats to Mojave

The largest threat to the Mojave region lies in the many ways we use the approximately 4.3 million acres of public land, including off-road vehicles, livestock grazing, groundwater pumping, mining, expansion of DOD training and improper renewable energy development. The last two of these are the most recent threats to the landscape and its biodiversity, and the most significant. 
Some key species are indicators of the overall ecological health of the region, like the desert tortoise, bighorn sheep and Mojave ground squirrel. Most of these species continue to decline, or are threatened over significant portions of their range due to a variety of human-related activities.

Renewable Energy

Over the past three years, the BLM has permitted large-scale wind and solar energy projects on a project-by-project basis and has committed to processing backlog applications (over 160 of them) in this manner. The cumulative impact of approved projects has already resulted in the elimination of approximately 50,000 acres of desert tortoise habitat, largely in California, and continued development has a high potential to eliminate hundreds of thousands of acres of occupied and/or suitable habitat over the next several years. The projects have also impacted dune systems that support the Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard, and several solar and wind energy projects have been proposed and permitted within known golden eagle foraging habitats within flight-distance to nests; wind turbine collisions among golden eagles are one of many risks the birds face. Though renewable energy projects can be built in places and using methods that limit the impact to wildlife, sadly, this has not been the case with many projects in the Mojave. 
 

DOD Training

The expansion of Fort Irwin, a national army training center, constitutes another major impact on the Mojave. In 2001, Congress authorized Fort Irwin’s expansion into high-density desert tortoise populations across roughly 130,000 acres. As part of the expansion, for several years, more than 600 desert tortoises were captured and removed from the expansion area and relocated to another area. About half the time, these translocations resulted in the deaths of the tortoises.  The expansion would also degrade, fragment and destroy sensitive desert lands, allowing tanks and other Army vehicles to drive over former critical habitat for desert tortoise.