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Utah News

Agencies Seek Public Comment On Proposed Highway Through National Conservation Area

 

 

For the first time, alternative routes to the controversial proposed northern corridor in Southern Utah are being discussed, and agencies want to hear the public’s opinion on the matter. 

St. George is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas of the country, and with growth comes traffic problems. For years, the proposed Northern Corridor has been seen as a boon to growth by local developers and politicians. However, the route preferred by the Utah 

Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Land Management cuts through the heart of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, a large section of land set aside to protect the threatened desert tortoise. The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are seeking public comment about new alternatives.

“Proponents of the Northern Corridor Highway think that it’s essential to offer another east-west corridor to move people across northern St. George, but they neglect to think about the existing east-west corridors we have, like Red Hills Parkway, that could be improved, and function better than the Northern Corridor Highway, and at much less cost to the taxpayers,” said Sarah Thomas of Conserve Southwest Utah. “It’s a lot cheaper to make improvements to an existing roads than it is to build a brand new highway in an incredibly sensitive National Conservation Area.”

Aside from destroying land important to desert tortoises and other sensitive wildlife, roads bring about other problems, including fire.

“Roads really increase the risk of wildfire because they increase human access to sensitive area,” Thomas said. “You know with roads come vehicles, and with vehicles come dragging tow chains that shoot out sparks, vehicle collisions, people tossing cigarette butts out the window, and quieter and more insidious threats, too. Roads are vectors for the spread of invasive plant species like the brome grasses that act as a tinder for carrying wildfire, and for starting these monster wildfires that we’re becoming more and more accustomed to seeing here in southwest Utah.”

The new alternatives described in the draft environmental impact study could reduce these risks by keeping new roads out of the protected area.

“This is the first time, in the decades-long history of this highway, that transportation alternatives outside of Red Cliffs are on the table, and you can write a comment in support of one of those alternatives that will protect Red Cliffs,” Thomas said. 

The public comment period ends September 10th. Comments can be emailed to BLM_UT_NorthernCorridor@blm.gov; or mailed to

 

Bureau of Land Management

Attn: Northern Corridor

345 East Riverside Drive

St. George, UT 84790