Desert Tortoise Info
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Land Acquisition and Airspace Establishment to Support Large-Scale Marine Air Ground Task Force Live-Fire and Maneuver Training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) Twentynine Palms, California (Combat Center)
In 2006, the Marine Corps adopted new specifications for large-scale training exercises at the Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. Although the Combat Center has been an effective training site since 1952, the Marine Corps must now train for highly specialized and diverse situations. These scenarios combine the movement of three infantry battalions with aircraft support, ground troops and live fire.
In July 2012, the Department of the Navy published a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that analyzed the environmental effects of acquiring lands adjacent to the Combat Center for expansion to accommodate large-scale training exercises by Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEBs). Since training in specific portions of the acquired lands would impact resident desert tortoise populations on those lands, a General Translocation Plan (GTP) to move the tortoises to low-impact areas was prepared and evaluated in a Biological Assessment (BA), a Biological Opinion (BO) by US Fish and Wildlife, and in the 2012 EIS. A Record of Decision (ROD) was issued in 2013.
In December 2013, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA 2014) was signed into law, changing the boundaries between the Combat Center and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This legislation withdrew approximately 132,000 acres of public land in the Johnson Valley area, shifting 79,000 acres to the Marine Corps for Exclusive Military Use and designating 53,000 acres for shared use with the public. In December 2013, the 79,000 acres designated as Exclusive Military Use in the NDAA 2014 were immediately transferred to the Marine Corps and closed to the public.
ABOUT THE SEIS
The 2013 ROD committed the Marine Corps to various measures to protect resident desert tortoises by moving them from areas where they would be exposed to impacts from the MEB training to nearby areas that would not be affected by the MEB training. The approach to translocation of the desert tortoises has changed over time due to various factors and new information. In addition to the GTP, two alternative translocation plans were developed and studied as a part of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS).
The SEIS was prepared during the fall of 2016. As part of this analysis, a revised Biological Opinion was released on January 31, 2017. A Record of Decision for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a cooperating agency on this project, was signed on February 9, 2017. The Department of the Navy’s Record of Decision was signed on February 10, 2017, documenting the Marine Corps selection of a tortoise translocation alternative.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Visit the Land Acquisition and Airspace Establishment Archive for historical EIS documents, or contact the Resource Management Group at (760) 830-3737 with other questions.