Petition Opposing the Northern Corridor
Photo by FredlyFish4 / CC BY-SA 3.0

Opponents of the “Northern Corridor”—the proposed parkway that would link I-15 at exit 13 to the Red Hills Parkway—have created a petition opposing Washington County plans to build the new highway through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. Foes of the Northern Corridor project are broadcasting a call opposing a bill sponsored by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch that will make it possible to build the highway. As of the publication of this article, the petition’s sponsors have gathered over 101,000 signatures* in order to “Reject highway construction in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and honor the conservation agreement.”

Senate Bill 1783 would amend the Habitat Conservation Plan and the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 to eliminate any additional requirements imposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to the recently released Bureau of Land Management plan for the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. The BLM plan “recommends no utility or transportation right-of-way be included to accommodate the road because of concerns over the impacts to natural resources.”

Petition Opposing the Northern Corridor Sen. Hatch
Photo courtesy U.S. Congress

Opponents of the bill state that construction of the Northern Corridor would degrade the habitat. In the petition, they claim, “[The reserve] is home to numerous at-risk plant and wildlife species, including the Mojave Desert Tortoise, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and is at risk of extinction due to habitat loss – the very habitat that would be destroyed by Sen. Hatch’s bill.” The authors of the petition also say that an agreement was reached when the Reserve was created back in 1996 to leave the conservation area intact and the 2009 act confirmed the agreement.

Dean Cox, Washington County Commission Administrator told The Independent that citizens should not sign the petition opposing the Northern Corridor because “an actual proposal for the Northern Corridor has not been tendered. Eliminating … any form of consideration would be hasty and unwise.”

“Congress, in fact directed the BLM to include a northern corridor in the Resource Management Plan for the new NCAs [National Conservation Areas] that were created with the Lands Bill,” Cox said. “During the planning process, Senator Hatch sent a letter to the BLM explaining to them, for their planning consideration, what the intent of the Congress actually was.”

According to the website GovTrack.US, SB 1783 was referred to committee on July 15, the first stage of the process of being enacted. In spite of the support of Senator Hatch, GovTrack.US only gives the bill a 9 percent chance of becoming law at this point.

*Poll numbers updated as 9/22 12:00 p.m.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I think that Dean Cox misunderstands the petition and the road that’s being opposed or perhaps he’s just trying to confuse citizens who might be interested in signing the petition. The only Northern Corridor route that the petition addresses is the one that would cut straight through the Reserve/NCA’s most prime habitat. That’s the one that Senator Hatch’s bill is pushing because it’s also the one the county leaders want. Hence, Mr. Cox’s admonition about signing the petition is more in keeping with supporting the county’s position and limiting the number of citizens who feel that road is wrong and should be stopped. All citizens should remember why the Reserve/NCA was established in the first place: so that growth could occur in Washington County outside the Reserve/NCA with no environmental encumbrances. Inside the Reserve/NCA, the protected species are the first concern.

  2. During the process that lead to the creation of the NCA there was never any intention to build a freeway through the NCA, nor was there even a discussion of such an abomination by the participants, which included Washington County and the BLM, among many others. The proponents of the northern corridor freeway want to spend 100+ million tax dollars to save wealthy Ledges residents a few minutes on their occasional commute to/from Salt Lake City or Washington City. In order to promote this ridiculous waste of money they are willing to trot out outrageous lies such as how a noisy, polluting freeway through prime habitat will “benefit” the desert tortoise, and how Congress “always intended” there to be such a road. No doubt the tortoises just can’t wait to enjoy the new freeway that Hatch wants so badly to build for them.

    Apparently, the word “reserve” as used in Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is incomprehensible to Hatch and the Washington County Commission. This willful display of ignorance and poor memory is exactly what is expected of the growth-at-any-cost philosophy of Utah government officials under the direction of their masters at the Chamber of Commerce. They will ultimately ruin the appeal of living in this area by supporting the destruction of every last vestige of the desert wildlands in order to further enrich their land developer and contractor cronies.

    Air pollution, inversions, overcrowding, traffic jams, water shortages, crime, noise… coming soon to a desert near you as the St. George area is morphed into a little Phoenix.

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