Desert tortoises should run from government

Apparently, desert tortoises don’t read the newspapers. They are in trouble. They receive federal protection.

Here’s my advice to desert tortoises in Nevada: Run for your lives! You don’t need protection by the federal government. You need protection from the federal government.

Ask wild horses how federal protection is working out for them. Can you spell “dog food”?

Let me tell you a story. It’s one I share with many Nevada families.

My family once lived at The Lakes in Las Vegas. In the 1980s, it was a spot-zoned community in the middle of nowhere. No other development in any direction. Summerlin was a pipe dream. Civilization ended at Rainbow Boulevard. In some places, you could even see wagon ruts.

From our house to the mountains was pure desert, filled with jackrabbits, lizards of all kinds, coyotes, a few kit foxes and, of course, desert tortoises.

Most days after school, the kids in the neighborhood, accompanied by our yellow lab, Chief, set out on excursions from which they’d bring back all kinds of creatures. We’d have to stand our sons at attention on the front porch and search their backpacks, along with every pocket in their jeans, to separate them from their prized chuckwalla or whiptail or whatever turned out to be the catch the day.

We missed a few. Nothing like sitting down to dinner and watching a desert creature scurry across the floor.

This band of suburban children group-hunting with a yellow lab produced desert tortoises almost weekly. When the smiling kids would bring the tortoises home, I’d try to tell them the reptiles were a protected species, and that the creatures needed to be returned to the desert before the FBI found out.

They’d cock a puzzled glance like only kids can, and say: “But dad, they are everywhere.”

“Obviously.” I’d say, “But they are still protected. Take them back.”

The irony could not be missed. The federal government may not be able to find enough desert tortoises, but our neighborhood kids sure could.

Anyway, after some 20 years of central government “management” of the desert tortoise in Nevada (and not to mention extra, unnecessary expense incurred by the homebuilding industry), we’re starting to get the picture that it’s all been a weirdly dumb exercise. My kids and the yellow lab could have testified to that.

The federal government is now planning to close the Las Vegas Valley’s desert tortoise refugee camp and release hundreds of them into the wild. I am not making this up.

I hope there’s enough room for them out there.

May there be elk

I knew of the Hughes brothers long before I met them. Their family moved to Hawthorne in the first part of the last century (from Mesquite, if my memory serves). The three brothers eventually took jobs working for the Mineral County Independent-News. They performed every job a newspaperman could do, from running the press to selling advertising to sweeping up at night.

They eventually became partners with the owner, the legendary Jack McCloskey, and bought the newspaper outright in 1994.

I got to know Frank, Tony and Ted as we talked about me buying their newspaper. I have to tell you, I was a little concerned stepping into the shoes of Jack McCloskey and the Hughes brothers. But they needed a worthy successor, and I love Nevada newspapers. I think it worked out well.

Ted told me he looked forward to retirement, spending more time in the wilds of Nevada, finding interesting rocks and stumbling upon the remains of mining digs long gone. He also liked to hunt.

But life is hard and unpredictable. After retirement, a series of health issues prevented Ted from doing all he wanted to do. He died just before Labor Day.

So, here’s thinking about a longtime Nevada newspaperman and his wife, Marian. I hope he can see horizons as big as Nevada ... and may there be elk.

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and a member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at