In response to the Trump administration’s decision in January 2021 to permit the construction of a four-lane highway through Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, today, Defenders of Wildlife and a coalition of Utah-based and national conservation organizations filed a lawsuit today, against the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management in the D.C. District Court.
Paving over a protected, sensitive, scenic desert paradise in southwest Utah violates bedrock environmental and cultural resource protection laws, according to this lawsuit.
“The Northern Corridor highway has no place in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. The highway will pave over some of the best habitat for the Mojave desert tortoise in the region,” said Vera Smith, Senior Federal Lands Policy Analyst for Defenders of Wildlife. “By filing this lawsuit, Defenders of Wildlife continues its defense of this remarkable animal that is tragically trending towards extinction, largely due to projects like this one that destroy its habitat.”
Congress established the conservation area in 2009 to protect popular trails, cultural resources, and critical habitat for 20 species of sensitive and threatened wildlife, including Washington County’s iconic Mojave desert tortoise.
The Bureau of Land Management analyzed transportation alternatives outside of Red Cliffs NCA and found that those alternatives more effectively relieve traffic congestion and protect wildlife, scenic beauty, and local access to trails. One alternative, the Red Hills Parkway Expressway, would allow cars to travel east-west across the northern St. George metropolitan area, connecting Red Hills Parkway directly to I-15, enabling it to flow around congestion points while also improving flow through those congestion points. Another improves traffic flow through congestion points while also improving business access and the pedestrian experience in downtown St. George.