Yippee-ai-ay. After years of studies and legal actions, ranchers in California’s Mojave Desert are being forced to remove cattle herds from almost half a million acres of federal land during the spring and fall, when threatened desert tortoises mate and forage in the area. Grazing cattle can crush tortoises or their burrows, eat their food, and trample the groundcover that protects them from predators. Federal land managers are building fences to keep cattle out, and ranchers face fines and penalties if their cattle are found in the restricted areas. Conservationists say the measures are entirely reasonable and necessary to protect the tortoises, but ranchers say the cattle round-ups are expensive and difficult; some see the protection measures as an attempt to bankrupt cattle-owners and drive them from the land.