Saving the desert tortoises too much for bureaucrats when funds dry up?

Federal officials decided they would save the “threatened” desert tortoise no matter what it cost you and me in taxes, $550-an-acre development fees, fences and precautions to prevent any harm whatsoever and up to $50,000 in fines and/or a year in jail for “disturbing” the slow-moving, hard-shelled, long-lived creatures.

But now that the recession has sucked the development fee life blood out of their budget, the bureaucrats are throwing up their arms in defeat and plan to close the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in 2014 and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises that have lived at the refuge for years, according to an AP report.

Deseert tortoise (AP photo)

The Bureau of Land Management budget for the 220-acre refuge is $1 million a year, but the fees that fund it have generated only $290,000 in the past 11 months.

The AP account says the feds have set up a large refrigerator labeled “carcass freezer.” The center’s 1,400 tortoises are examined to see which are hearty enough to release into the unprotected desert and which will become tortoise popsicles — estimated to be about half.

A year ago, a Review-Journal editorial noted how well such releases have worked out in the past:

“A previous release of tortoises didn’t go so well. When 770 desert tortoises from Fort Irwin were placed in the open desert in California, 90 percent of the transplants were promptly devoured by predators, leading to the program’s suspension in 2008.”

That editorial also quoted Harry Pappas, who in the 1990s served on the Clark County Tortoise Advisory Council. In 2001 Pappas recalled:

“So what happened? They got so overrun with tortoises being turned in that they told us they were going to have to start euthanizing them. I said ‘Hold on a minute, here. Euthanize them? Why don’t you just drop them out in the desert?’ They said, ‘Oh no, they’ll fight with the native tortoises that already live out there and they’ll kill each other, because all these lands are already at saturation levels.’ I said, ‘Which is it? How can they be ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’ … but now you tell us all these lands are at ‘saturation levels’ for tortoises?”

For decades untold millions have been spent by private builders and contractors on fences, tortoise tunnels and workers whose sole job was to prevent harming tortoises.

For what? Just to see the bureaucrats throw in the towel?