1. The NCH is inconsistent with the purpose of the Red Cliffs NCA


What the Draft EIS does or doesn’t say:

  • BLM has discretion to deny the NCH if it is inconsistent with the purpose of the Red Cliffs NCA[1].
  • The Draft EIS notes many places where the NCH violates that purpose[2].

The problem:

  • The defined legal purposes of the Red Cliffs NCA are “to conserve, protect, and enhance for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources…and to protect each species listed as threatened or endangered.” The law[3] says Red Cliffs is to be managed in a manner that conserves, protects, and enhances its resources. The Secretary of the Interior can “only allow uses of the National Conservation Area that the Secretary determines would further a purpose.” The NCH clearly violates the purposes[4]:
      • It would destroy 287 acres of critical habitat for the threatened Mojave desert tortoise and impact an additional 2,652 acres. It would require the translocation or “take” (harm or killing) of an estimated 20 tortoises and would indirectly impact 185 others[5].
      • It would cause long-term adverse scenic impacts, and 130-acres would have to be downgraded from a Visual Resource Management perspective in order to allow the NCH to travel through the beautiful landscape[6].
      • It would negatively impact 8 National Register of Historic Place-eligible cultural resources, including a prehistoric petroglyph panel[7].
  • The BLM and USFWS are required by law to manage Red Cliffs to “ensure that the “take” (killing or harm) of a listed species will be minimized or mitigated by conserving the habitat upon which the species depend, thereby contributing to the recovery of the species as a whole[8].” Protecting Red Cliffs functions as mitigation for the “take” of tortoises elsewhere in the county. It is wrong to violate that mitigation agreement by allowing the NCH to destroy a part of Red Cliffs.
  • The BLM’s guidance[9] requires them to the greatest extent possible to avoid granting new rights-of-ways or authorizing transportation or utility corridors in protected areas, especially when feasible alternatives exist. This is clearly violated since there are viable transportation alternatives outside Red Cliffs.
  • The BLM’s preferred alternative is a highway that fragments Red Cliffs despite these violations and the fact that there are outside alternatives that reduce traffic congestion better than the NCH.
  • The BLM and USFWS have denied or counseled against the NCH many times in the past[10]. Nothing has changed since those earlier rejections other than the political pressure.

Commenting guidance:

  • The Secretary of the Interior and the BLM cannot approve the NCH since it would undermine the purposes of Red Cliffs, contrary to federal laws and agency guidance.

Use elements of the “problem” statements to bolster your points. 

Add a personal note:

  • Protecting resources and threatened and endangered species for “present and future generations” is central to Red Cliffs’ purposes. What do you enjoy and appreciate about Red Cliffs that you want to see remain protected for the future?
  • Are you concerned that the Northern Corridor Highway goes against the Congressionally-defined purpose of the Red Cliffs NCA? Write a note about this.

[1] DEIS Vol 2, section 3.18.2, page 3-142

[2] DEIS Vol 2, chapter 3, starting on page 3-1

[3] The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (OPLMA)

[4] OPLMASection 1974

[5] DEIS Vol 2, pages 3-59 and 3-62

[6] DEIS Vol 2, page 3-110

[7]DEIS Vol 2, page 3-119

[8] HCP

[9]  The BLM’s guidance

[10] 2007 USFWS Letter to Washington County Commission Counseling Against the Northern Corridor Highway