The Northern Corridor is a proposed 4-lane highway through the protected Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and National Conservation Area (NCA). It would run east-west through Red Cliffs for 4.5 miles, linking I-15 Exit 13 to Red Hills Parkway. It is estimated that by 2040, 32,000-46,000 cars will travel on this route each day.
To see the land and neighborhoods at stake, click here to watch a video of the route the Northern Corridor Highway would take through the heart of the Red Cliffs NCA.
The long history of this highway is full of twists and turns. Since 2006 Washington County has tried, unsuccessfully, to push the highway through six times. In December 2019, Washington County and the Utah Department of Transportation applied to the Bureau of Land Management for a right-of-way to build the Northern Corridor through the Red Cliffs NCA. The Northern Corridor Highway was given the green light in the final days of the Trump administration despite major legal issues and broad public calls against the project. Now, we must overturn this decision as we have done time and time again over the past 26 years since the project began seeking federal approval.
The Movement to Save Red Cliffs
Thank you for participating in the environmental review process for the Northern Corridor Highway in 2020 and for helping to raise awareness about this precedent-setting project! Below is a timeline of events, including Conserve Southwest Utah’s notable accomplishments in the movement to protect the Red Cliffs NCA:
- Jan 2020: 20,000 public comments received during scoping for the Northern Corridor Highway (NCH).
- Apr 2020: COVID-19 devastates communities, preventing gatherings and limiting ability to participate in public processes like NEPA for the NCH.
- Jul 2020: Human-caused wildfires burn 25% of the Red Cliffs NCA. BLM ignores CSU’s request for a supplemental Draft EIS and pause to the environmental review until fire impacts are studied and understood.
- Jul 2020: Rep. Stewart introduces H.R. 7815 to override public comment and force the highway.
- Sep 2020: 15,400 public comments received on the draft EIS in favor of transportation alternatives that reduce congestion and preserve the Red Cliffs NCA.
- Sep 2020: U.S. House Natural Resources Committee requests that NCH review be paused until unethical, illegal issues are resolved, including attempted routing of the highway through lands purchased with Land and Water Conservation Fund for permanent conservation.
- Nov 2020: BLM released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Northern Corridor Highway, indicating their preference for UDOT’s Alternative 3 through the Red Cliffs NCA, and triggering a 30-day protest period.
- Jan 2021: BLM issued a Record of Decision on the Northern Corridor Highway, granting UDOT a right-of-way to build the highway in the heart of the Red Cliffs NCA.
- June 2021: CSU and six Utah-based and national conservation organizations filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Interior (DOI) to reverse the approval of the NCH in the closing days of the Trump Administration.
- Nov 2021: CSU launched the Protect Red Cliffs Petition and gathered signatures across the world from people in support of protecting Red Cliffs from the highway.
- Jun 2022: CSU traveled to Washington DC to present the Protect Red Cliffs Petition to the Department of the Interior with signatures from 35,828 people across the world who want to “Keep Red Cliffs Roadless” and prevent the Northern Corridor Highway from being constructed. CSU also hand-delivered copies of the Red Cliffs Zine (“Protect Red Cliffs: Art and Narratives of a Threatened Place”) to members of Congress and the Department of the Interior, so that key decision-makers can see what’s at stake if the Northern Corridor Highway is constructed through the Red Cliffs NCA.
- Nov 2023: The BLM announced that they were reconsidering the highway and the U.S. District Court issued an opinion and granted in part the Federal Defendants’ Motion for Voluntary Remand, remanding the 2021 approval of the Northern Corridor Highway right-of-way. Read more from the press release.
CSU’s Position on the Northern Corridor Highway
The Northern Corridor Highway breaks promises made in good faith, sets a dangerous precedent, and causes irreparable damage to our communities and environment. We oppose the Northern Corridor Highway for these reasons:
- The highway does not honor prior promises to protect the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and the threatened Mojave desert tortoise.
- The highway damages the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and sets a dangerous precedent for all of America’s National Conservation Lands.
- There are more effective, less expensive transportation solutions that can reduce future traffic congestion without sacrificing Red Cliffs.
- Damage caused by the highway can’t be mitigated by Zone 6.
- The highway undermines the spectacular quality of life we enjoy in Washington County.
Northern Corridor Highway Impacts
Here are some of the impacts Conserve Southwest Utah is most concerned about:
- The highway would cut through the backyards of peaceful homes in Green Springs and Middleton, increasing noise levels from 30 to more than 60 decibels in places.
- The litter, noise, air and light pollution will also spill into the communities of Warm Springs and Brio if the Northern Corridor is connected to the Washington Parkway Extension (see map above).
- The highway will damage exquisite scenery, open space and world-class recreation that attract over 200 thousand annual visitors who spend millions of dollars in Washington County each year. In 2013, visitors to Red Cliffs had an economic output of $3 million, and their contributions are much higher now.
- The highway will fragment two popular trails (Cottontail and T-bone) and impact 13 others with litter, noise, air pollution, light pollution and visual disturbance.
- The highway will impact Native American cultural sites where the history of the Southern Paiute people should remain protected, not paved over with asphalt.
- The highway will jeopardize the survival of one of the last high-density populations of threatened Mojave desert tortoise left surviving anywhere in the species’ range.
- The highway will impact over 20 other threatened, endangered and sensitive species including the Gila monster, burrowing owl and kit fox.