Vehicles banned on SoCal tortoise habitat

Jan. 5, 2005 at 12:22 PM

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A federal judge has ordered off-road vehicles to stay out of a sprawling area of California desert that is home to a rare tortoise.

The Los Angeles Times said Wednesday the injunction was seen by environmentalists as a victory against the Bush administration's efforts to relax land-use restrictions in the West.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said the government's management plans for the area violated the Endangered Species Act.

The injunction applies to nearly a half-million acres of desert along the California-Arizona state line that is home to the desert tortoise, a creature that is protected by the act.

The area is also a favorite of off-road enthusiasts, whom the Times said have blamed drought and marauding ravens for the tortoise's decline.

Off-roader groups were miffed at the ruling, although the Bureau of Land Management said 1.7 million acres in the area remain open to vehicles.

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