Trump admin violated law with right-of-way
A planned highway project in Utah could devastate populations of Mojave desert tortoise, a threatened species, and fragment popular trails used by thousands of people each year. We’re joining other groups in a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management over the project, which violates several laws.
The four-lane Northern Corridor project, for which then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt issued a right-of-way in the final few days of the Trump administration, would slice through both the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, just a few miles north of the Arizona border, and the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) that encompasses much of it.
“Paving a highway through [Red Cliffs] makes no sense and is counter to the legislation that set it aside as a conservation area to begin with” - Phil Hanceford, senior staff attorney at The Wilderness Society
The highway could disrupt habitat for the tortoises, whose numbers have declined by some 90 percent since the 1950s. Additionally, the project could introduce noise pollution and more invasive plant life, whose spread is known to be aided by seeds “hitchhiking” in tire treads, among other methods. Red Cliffs is also thought to contain hundreds of petroglyphs and other archaeological sites, some of which are likely found on the highway route.
The map below, produced in 2020, shows the proposed highway route in red, curving through the southmost edge of both the Red Cliffs reserve and conservation area.
The Trump administration’s process for advancing the Northern Corridor Highway flouts the conservation aims of the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that protected the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area in the first place. There is also concern that the government violated bedrock environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, and that the acquisition of land to build the highway was a misuse of a Land and Water Conservation Fund monies intended to conserve habitat. The project has moved forward despite vocal opposition from local conservation groups, who say the government didn’t give fair consideration to alternate routes.
“Paving a highway through the NCA makes no sense and is counter to the legislation that set it aside as a conservation area to begin with,” said Phil Hanceford, senior staff attorney at The Wilderness Society, in a joint statement with other litigants.
We believe the law is on our side but hope you will stay tuned for more on this suit and how you can help in the future.