CMC Breaks Ground On Tortoise Habitat

    September 14, 2008


    JOSHUA TREE, Ca – Copper Mountain College (CMC) will begin breaking ground for their tortoise habitat by fencing in the tortoise translocation (TA) area on the college campus later next week.

    As many in the community are aware, CMC has started an expansion project that will greatly transform the college over the next few years. The first of three new projects begins at the end of this week with the placement of fencing for the tortoise translocation area and quickly followed by the groundbreaking of the Bell Center on October 1st. The remodel for efficiency of various phases of the campus will follow later this year.

    CMC has recognized its responsibility as environmental stewards of our beautiful desert and completed a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) in 2006 to protect native desert species and habitat during the large expansion. The college’s HCP has been cited as a model of responsible development for other organizations. The HCP designated an 85 acre Translocation Area (TA) to protect the tortoises removed from potential harm in the campus construction areas, and to serve as a permanent tortoise preserve.

    Dr. Paul Delaney, a biology professor at CMC, wrote the Translocation Plan for desert tortoises displaced by construction activities at the college. He noted, “CMC’s tortoise preserve will provide a great opportunity for students at CMC to think globally about environmental issues, act locally to help protect a threatened species and gain research experience in conservation biology.”

    To help implement the plan, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) designated Ed LaRue, a private biological consultant, as an Authorized Biologist to remove and monitor tortoises at CMC, along with Dr. Delaney. Dan Cain, Director of Facilities, is CMC’s Field Contact Representative for ensuring implementation of protective measures for the desert tortoises on campus. The tortoise population in the TA will be monitored to determine effects of construction and other activities. The comprehensive monitoring efforts will entail ecological surveys of tortoise population growth, survival and reproduction, as well as the health status of individual tortoise.

    In April of 2007 CMC established a Tortoise Awareness Program designed to educate and train visitors, students, contractors, employees, teachers, construction workers and anyone in the community on what to do if they encounter a tortoise. A portion of this program includes tortoise awareness classes that require anyone who will access the construction area to participate. CMC has begun utilizing hardhat decals and rear view mirror hangers to identify people that have been trained and are authorized to work in the area.  CMC wants to ensure that new construction does not harm tortoises that are within the work area.

    During the months when tortoises are most active ranging from mid February to June and again in September and October, CMC has had a few encounters with the tortoises that inhabit locations on or near the campus.


    The tortoise pictured above was found near the Maintenance and Operations building on campus on August 29th .  To ensure its safety, this hatchling tortoise was monitored by college staff until it returned to the open desert away from college facilities, and its location was recorded with a global positioning satellite (GPS) transceiver.


    The large tortoise above was found on September 11th near the rear side of phase III on campus.  This adult tortoise was also monitored to ensure its safety until it returned to the open desert away from campus facilities, and its GPS location was recorded by Dan Cain, Director of Facilities at CMC.

    For more information regarding this project please contact Laura Hall at 760-366-3791 extension 5442 or for general information regarding Copper Mountain College visit us at