A campaign launched Tuesday is aimed at reducing improper trash disposal in the Coachella Valley, which officials say damages waste infrastructure and harms the locally threatened desert tortoise.

The “Take Care of Your Trash” campaign, coordinated by the Living Desert zoo, Burrtec and the Coachella Valley Water District, encourages residents to stop flushing trash, which can destroy pumps and other infrastructure, and leaving outdoor garbage containers open, which attracts desert tortoise predators such as ravens.

According to the CVWD, more than $1 million is spent annually maintaining and cleaning its sanitation system, with much of that sum going toward removing items that should never have been flushed and jam up equipment, like diapers and supposedly “flushable” wipes.

Meanwhile, the Living Desert, which has coordinated numerous efforts to protect the desert tortoise, is continuing its efforts to get residents to cover up their trash containers, which provide a food source for ravens.

The tortoise, which is listed as “threatened” by Endangered Species International, has seen declining population numbers due to a variety of factors, including a large increase in the raven population.

“While ravens are a natural part of the Mojave Desert ecosystem, their numbers have increased 1,500 percent over the past three decades, causing a huge imbalance in the ecosystem — and the desert tortoise is suffering because of this,” said James Danoff-Burg, the Living Desert’s director of conservation. “Actions as simple as covering our trash will mean fewer ravens, and that will hopefully mean more desert tortoises.”

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