The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), in association with Washington County (County), submitted an application requesting a four-lane highway right-of-way (ROW) north of St. George, Utah. The County proposes to offset the potential impacts to Mojave desert tortoise mitigation habitat from the ROW by adding 6,800 acres (commonly referred to as Zone 6) currently outside the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve (Reserve) and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA), which would require an amendment to the St. George Resource Management Plan (RMP). In an effort to address traffic congestion associated with a growing population, UDOT has applied for a highway ROW corridor that would cross a portion of the NCA lands administered by the BLM as well as Reserve lands set aside as desert tortoise mitigation for development.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are co-lead agencies preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) to consider an application by UDOT for a right-of-way (ROW) north of St. George, Utah, referred to as the Northern Corridor project and a request from Washington County for issuance of an incidental take permit. The EIS will analyze four proposed actions:
♦ Whether the BLM will approve a 1.75-mile ROW section of the approximately four-mile long Northern Corridor project that crosses the 62,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve (Reserve) and the 45,000-acre congressionallyestablished Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA).
♦ Whether the BLM will amend the Red Cliffs NCA Resource Management Plan (RMP) to allow for a transportation ROW and/or corridor within the NCA.
♦ Whether the BLM will amend the St. George Field Office RMP to modify management on approximately 6,800 acres outside the Reserve and NCA to offset the ROW impacts.
♦ Whether the FWS will issue an associated Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for the Mojave desert tortoise for specific land use and land development activities in Washington County.