Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge has announced they have been selected by the US Fish & Wildlife Service to establish a self-sustaining population of Bolson Tortoises, the largest and rarest of the tortoises native to North American.

Amigos de la Sevilleta are inviting the community to a free presentation on the Bolson Tortoises project at the refuge from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m on Jan. 20 at the Sevilleta Visitors Center.

Dr. Chris Wiese, senior biologist at the Turner Endangered Species and one of the leading authorities of the desert Bolson Tortoises will give the presentation.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wild press release, the Bolson Tortoise is the largest and rarest of the five North American tortoise species, the Bolson Tortoise is thought to have once lived throughout most of the Chihuahuan desert. Habitat loss, human predation, and collection from individuals have resulted in widespread population declines.

The Bolson Tortoise was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1979. Today, the Bolson Tortoise is restricted to a relatively small area of the grasslands of north-central Mexico in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango where it exists in disjoined populations, said the press release.

The plan is to bolster the population of this critically endangered species at the Sevilleta starting this year. The Sevilleta Vistors Center is on exit 169 from Interstate 25 North. Refreshments will be provided.