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Solar Project Could Displace 140 Endangered Tortoises

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According to a new estimate made public on Tuesday, as many as 140 endangered tortoises could be displaced in northeastern San Bernardino County to make way for a BrightSource Energy's $2 billion solar energy development. Initially, developers estimated the relocation of only 17 animals, reports the Press-Enterprise.

"At least 43 tortoises have been moved from the project site to protect them from grading and construction work that began in October. The animals include 15 adults and 11 juveniles now held in pens and 17 that were carried a short distance to areas outside the fenced construction site, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A new, much higher estimate of desert tortoises in the area near a solar power project in the Ivanpah Valley causes concern. Biologists with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which is overseeing the tortoise removals, now estimate that an additional 101 tortoises are living in areas of the 5.6-square-mile site that have not yet been cleared, said Larry LaPre, a wildlife biologist for the agency. The project is in the Ivanpah Valley, just west of Interstate 15 near Primm, Nev."

Threatened with extinction and protected by the Endangered Species Act, California tortoises have declined "about 90 percent since the 1970s," say biologists who study the animals. It is uncertain if relocated tortoises will survive, according to previous research, reports the Press-Enterprise.