Northern Corridor Comment Period Closing, Recreationist Shares Concerns About Project
The public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement of the Northern Corridor closes Thursday at midnight.
One aspect of Washington County’s preferred plan would set aside nearly 7,000 acres of land as protected tortoise habitat to make up for the proposed highway cutting through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, southwest of the reserve in the Bear Claw Poppy Trail area.
A local environmental group opposes the entire project — and one of their concerns about Zone 6 is that it fragments tortoise habitat. In addition to conservationists, some recreationists are against the land swap.
The area is a popular spot in the county for mountain biking, off-highway vehicles and target shooting. And according to documents related to the draft environmental impact statement, those activities could be limited if the preferred option for the Northern Corridor is approved.
Proposed Zone 6 is made up of federal, state and private land. Currently, it allows various recreational activities, however, if the preferred alternative is approved, recreation will likely be limited.
Washington County resident Wendy Godlewski said she has recreated there for years with her family — it’s where her kids first learned how to target shoot. She’s spoken out against the project because she’s worried about the county’s push to change what Zone 6 is used for.
“They’ve already incurred the wrath of the environmentalists,” Godlewski said. “Why would they incur the wrath of the OHV, mountain bike, gun owning crowd? If everyone in Washington County knew the full details, they would all be up in arms.”
Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Christian Venhuizen encouraged people to give feedback ahead of the quickly approaching deadline.
“Not just why they like or don’t like an idea but to explain the reasons behind it,” he said. “Do they use that land for a particular use? Do they believe there’s a different alternative to what we’re proposing?”
Venhuizen said so far since the public comment period opened, the BLM had received around 15,000 submissions. He pointed out that comments collected over the last 90 days will be used in the final environmental impact statement, which is expected this fall. A final decision on the project will likely be in early 2021.