St. George, Utah - Today, Conserve Southwest Utah issued the following statement regarding the proposed Northern Corridor Highway through Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. This statement comes in response to the news that BLM is now accepting public comments on three management plans that include the proposed highway development. The public comment period will last only 30 days.
Statement from Sarah Thomas, Land Program Manager/SUNCLF Director:
“The proposed Northern Corridor highway would severely damage Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) and set a dangerous precedent around development on public lands throughout our state and the country.
“This highway would travel behind Washington County’s beloved Sugarloaf in Pioneer Park. It would fragment the popular T-bone Trail and impact one of the most conveniently-accessed trail systems in all of Red Cliffs: Pioneer Park, Pioneer Hills and Pioneer Rim. This is a popular area to hike, mountain bike and ride horses in Red Cliffs NCA.
“The highway would increase the amount of noise, air pollution and litter experienced on trails in the Red Cliffs NCA. The Northern Corridor would drastically change the experience of spending time on these precious public lands above downtown St. George, and also in the pristine Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness at the highway’s eastern end.
“Conserve Southwest Utah (CSU) has proposed alternative solutions to the highway and supports the original agreements that designated and protected these lands. We believe that there are alternative ways of relieving traffic congestion that would not require sacrificing quality of life and damaging the Red Cliffs NCA.
“We are also deeply concerned about the way in which this process is taking place. This is the seventh attempt by the project proponents to try and get approval for the highway. Now, it’s being considered as part of the Bureau of Land Management’s planning process for these lands. A 30 day comment period is not sufficient for a development of this magnitude.
“We urge the community to participate in this process and advocate for the protection of Red Cliffs NCA.”
Background Information on Red Cliffs NCA:
The Red Cliffs NCA makes up 75% of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The Reserve is collaboratively managed by BLM, the State of Utah, Washington County, and other municipalities. It was established in 1996 as part of a grand compromise to protect 60,000 acres of public lands for the Mojave desert tortoise while opening up 300,000 acres of private lands for development.
Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) was designated by Congress in 2009 to further protect these public lands. Red Cliffs NCA includes approximately 45,000 acres of public lands located in south-central Washington County. The Pine Valley Mountains and Dixie National Forest are to the north and the communities of Ivins, Santa Clara, St. George, Washington, and Leeds surround Red Cliffs NCA to the south-west and south-east.
The tortoise may have been the original catalyst for protecting these lands over 20 years ago, but the value and benefit of Red Cliffs NCA is far reaching. It adds to our quality of life and our economy. It protects historical and cultural resources like pioneer homes and petroglyphs. It is a place that is enjoyed and explored by many.
Because these public lands are just 45 miles from Zion National Park, visitors come from all over the state, country and world to visit Red Cliffs. Visitors are often struck by the area’s beautiful red rock cliffs and basalt formations as well as spectacular views of the Pine Valley Mountains. Red Cliffs boasts 130 miles of trails, two wilderness areas, the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, the Red Cliffs Campground, and heritage public use sites. These lands are enjoyed by hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, and equestrians.