Commenting on 3 Plans during Northern Corridor NEPA

During Northern Corridor NEPA, Scoping comments are invited on 3 separate, but closely connected plans:

  • Proposed Amendment to BLM’s Red Cliffs National Conservation Area Resource Management Plan (RMP)

UDOT is applying to BLM for a right-of-way to build the Northern Corridor Highway. This plan governs how the Red Cliffs NCA is to be managed for conservation, and it could be drastically changed to allow the construction of the highway if we don’t tell the BLM “NO WAY!”

See the plan here: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/lup/64251/93615/112935/RCNCA-ROD-RMP_ePlanning.pdf

  • Proposed Amendment to BLM’s St. George Field Office Resource Management Plan (RMP)

This larger plan governs all 629,000 acres of BLM land in Washington County. It will be changed to include the addition of Zone 6 mitigation in exchange for damage caused by the highway if it’s granted.

See the plan here:  https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/lup/66847/81891/96150/STGEOROD.pdf

  • Application for Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to Washington County, Utah, under section Section 10 (a)(1)(b) of the Endangered Species Act

See the plan here: http://www.redcliffsdesertreserve.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/02/HCP-The-Plan-amended-11-3-09.pdf

Washington County is renewing the 20-year HCP that expired in 2016. The HCP is considered a “grand compromise” that allowed for development of 300,000 acres in Washington County. If you live in a house in Washington County built in 1996 or after, you live there as a result of this very important plan. The County is applying for a new ITP that will allow a certain number of threatened Mojave desert Tortoises to be killed or harmed as development continues on tortoise habitat around St. George. In exchange, the County provides mitigation for this “take.” This mitigation is the 62,000-acre RCDR where tortoises are protected. But now, the County wants to renew the HCP with a highway and adding Zone 6 to the HCP.

A Section 7 consultation with USFWS is required because the highway is a project that is likely to “adversely affect” the tortoise. USFWS will consult with BLM and Washington County and then issue a Biological Opinion on whether the Northern Corridor Highway will jeopardize the continued existence of the tortoise range-wide. If a jeopardy decision is issued, USFWS will provide reasonable and prudent alternative actions to the highway that would avoid jeopardy. If they decide that the proposed action will only “adversely affect” the tortoise, they will prepare an Incidental Take Statement that allows the highway to be constructed and outlines measures for minimizing the “take” that is expected. This is where the idea of Zone 6 enters the picture.