“Federal officials have told a solar developer to stop work on two-thirds of a construction site in northeast San Bernardino County because no more tortoises can be disturbed.
Until wildlife authorities reassess the tortoise population, work on the $2.1 billion project — hailed by the Obama administration — is limited to a 2-square-mile area cleared of the protected reptiles last fall. BrightSource Solar’s entire work site, on public land near Primm, Nev., is 5.6 square miles.
The suspension order, made official Friday, was triggered when biologists hired to remove tortoises from the property handled their 39th animal earlier this month, said Amy Fesnock of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
A federal permit allowed for the displacement of no more than 38 desert tortoises found within the project’s borders, said Fesnock, a wildlife biologist in the BLM’s California office. The species is listed as threatened with extinction.
The suspension forced crews from Bechtel, BrightSource’s contractor, to stop building fences and to fill in postholes and trenches so tortoises won’t fall in and get injured or trapped.” “MOJAVE DESERT: Tortoise finds curtail solar-site construction“