08 November 2008
Tortoise Class was....informative.
I'm up late...again.
This morning--or, rather, yesterday morning since it's been Saturday for almost 2 hours now--Snow and I went to River Mountain to get badged for the photovoltaic project we're doing out there. The directions for this place is basically "keep driving until you hit the mountain, then turn". It's out there. The thing is, the facility itself is outside Henderson city limits, and technically on federal land. I remember the issues I encountered trying to get badged for airport work in 2005, so I knew it would be a hassle, but Tortoise Class was a first for me.
Desert tortoises are federally protected, and the class went over all the rules for encountering them and working around them, plus all the state protected plant and animal life in and around the facility. Most of the class focused on the tortoises. We were told that if we encounter a desert tortoise in Henderson city limits on the way in, we could legally pick the tortoise up out of the road and put it into a box so it would be safe, then call a handler (someone supertrained to deal with them) to come and get it. If we encounter a desert tortoise on federal land, however (which includes the facility), then we can't touch it or move it or even move too quickly in case it freaks out. If it gets scared, it might pee itself and dehydrate and die. That's a felony. :(
So there are rules: if your vehicle or movable equipment is inactive for 10 minutes or more, you have to check under it to make sure a tortoise hasn't crawled underneath it for shade. If one has, you have to call one of the biologists handlers to get it out. You can only use paved roads, which are raised above the natural ground so that totoises won't wander onto them...but if one has, then you have to call the handler. Etc etc etc. Very in-depth, very serious. Basically, the only time I can even touch a desert tortoise is if it's in imminent danger: for instance, they can't swim, so if I saw one fall into a deep puddle, I could rescue it and immediately call a handler. And hope it didn't breathe in water or piss itself or puke in it's shell or...
Then we learned about all the state protected life. This includes bighorn sheep, rattlesnakes, foxes, gila monsters, ringtail cats, coyotes, falcons, chuckwallas, burrowing owls, badgers, and ground squirrels. Cacti, joshua trees and yucca are also state protected. Now, with the animal life, it's pretty simple: don't provoke them, don't feed them. If they aren't fed, they won't normally come around. We learned what tortoise burrows and owl burrows look like, and how to avoid them; also that once a burrow is abandoned, animals of all types like to move in, so if you lose a tool down there don't reach in to grab it. We also learned that when there's a trench or hole dug into the earth, they need to be covered overnight because a rodent might fall in, and then a snake will smell it and fall in, and on and on so that in the morning it'll be full of wriggling creatures. Not good. Trashcans for food waste must have raven-proof lids. And any kind of equipment, even earth-movers, can't have a piece of dirt on them larger than a pencil eraser, because it might hold tiny seeds of foreign weeds or invasive plants that can harm or kill the natural plantlife. Even the undercarriage must be checked. And, if any kind of the protected plantlife is in the way of construction, it must be carefully wrapped up, dug up to not harm or disturb roots, set aside, kept safe, and replanted at the end of construction.
It's crazy, but I like it. It takes extra time, but I feel it's better to let nature remain as pure and undisturbed as possible. Some guys were complaining, but I'm happy the rules are as they were explained. I think it'll be a good job. Besides, along with my badge, I got my Official Desert Tortoise Protector sticker that went straight onto the bucket I keep my handtools in, right next to the one that says "Get me a beer, bitch". Yeah.