KEYNOTE ADDRESS: MANAGEMENT OF THE DESERT
TORTOISE AND OTHER REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS: TIME
FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT
J. Whitfield Gibbons
The purpose of my talk is to provide you with some new facts, angles, and perspectives about a
problem with which you are all familiar. I hope that the discussion will indeed give you some fresh
insights but also will elicit some suggestions from you regarding some ways to confront and
approach the problem.
The point I want to emphasize is that certain groups of organisms need more careful consideration,
from the standpoint of environmental management and conservation. Today I want to talk
specifically about an identifiable group of vertebrates, the amphibians and reptiles in general and the
desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizil) specifically, and to identify some of the problems that still must
be faced before management and environmental stewardship of these groups can be undertaken in a
prudent and far-sighted manner.
A reason for combining two classes of vertebrates is that collectively they have been recognized by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service as recognizable groups that have
received inadequate attention in their management programs. As a herpetologist, most of my
examples will of course be of reptiles and amphibians. Some clear justifications can be given for
why the Desert Tortoise Council is such an appropriate group to which such a talk should be
1. The Desert Tortoise Council (DTC) has been highly successful in accomplishing protective
measures for a particular species, although few are yet satisfied that all of the environmental
provisions necessary for the species have been made.
2. DTC members are appreciative of the environmental problems still to be faced but are not
discouraged by them.
3. Although DTC members have a tendency to focus on a pinnacle species, most are truly interested
in all environmental components of the desert tortoise's habitat.
SREL Reprint #1882
Gibbons, J.W. 1994. Management of the desert tortoise and other reptiles and amphibians: Time
for an environmental attitude adjustment. p. 169-173. In Desert Tortoise Council Proceedings of
1987-1991 Symposia, Las Vegas, NV.
To request a reprint