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Is it the environmentalists' desire to increase the number of desert tortoise, or is their primary interest to control land?

Desert tortoises propagate by each laying hundreds of eggs each year. Biologists estimate that a large fraction of the eggs are destroyed by the elements or consumed by reptiles and birds. Of the remaining fraction that do hatch, no more than 10 percent survive the first year.The same problem exists with trout, and for years, the Division of Wildlife Resources has done a commendable job of hatching and stocking our streams, lakes and reservoirs with millions of trout each year.

Why not set aside a few, I repeat, a few acres, dedicated as hatchery for desert tortoises? Perhaps the first objection would be the expense and that trout hatchery expenses are defrayed by fees from fishing licenses. Current expenditures for monitoring tortoise habitat, tortoise fencing and the litigation against developers and others may well exceed the cost of a well-run tortoise hatchery program that could stock millions of these reptiles at a survivable age. Yes, and we could even locate a "mink rancher" or two who could set up and manage a prairie dog farm to replenish this "valuable" rodent throughout its habitat.

If these reptiles and rodents are so important to our ecology, isn't it time such solutions are tried rather than government agencies yielding to the environmentalists' demands by denying large tracts of land to development and ranching interests?

Homer Hansen

St. George