A combination of federal budget austerity and the dramatic decline of the Nevada housing market may claim some unlikely victims: desert tortoises.
<p>The Desert Tortoise Conservation Center -- a 23-year-old federal refuge in Las Vegas for the threatened species -- has collected only $290,000 from its primary funding source of local developer fees over the last 11 months, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/energy-environment/desert-tortoise-faces-threat-from-its-own-refuge-as-blm-closes-vegas-rescue-center/2013/08/25/42661004-0d8d-11e3-a2b3-5e107edf9897_story.html?hpid=z1">the AP reports</a>. The center can't count on the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Nevada Department of Wildlife to make up the shortfall on the center's $1 million annual operating budget because of federal and state budget constraints.</p><p>The result? Center administrators are planning to close the 220-acre facility in 2014 and euthanize about half of the 1400 tortoises under their protection, the AP reports. No more than 100,000 of the desert tortoises are believed to exist in the wild. Most of the tortoises there are former pets returned to their habitat once the government classified the species as threatened -- one step short of endangered. And most are too feeble to be returned to the wild, the AP reports.</p><p><em>[Image courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.]</em></p>
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