- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - A proposed road that would cut through part of a southern Utah reserve for the Mojave Desert Tortoise - considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act - has earned initial approval despite objections from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The road through a corner of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve would lead to a possible development of 700 homes, the Spectrum reported (https://bit.ly/2eH5XRt).

An agreement says developer Kirk Willey would swap 20 acres for the ability to build the road, which is required for safety and fire standards.

“That’s five-to-one of superior habitat, and that’s sufficient to me, personally,” said committee member and Ivins Mayor Chris Hart of the 4 acres that would be lost.

The Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan committee voted 4-1 to approve the swap. County commissioners voted earlier in October to support the proposed road.

Biologist Cameron Rognan said there has been some concern over whether part of the 20 acres will be appropriate habitat for the tortoises.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service committee representative Larry Crist voted no.

He said he doesn’t see how the habitat conservation plan’s rules would allow the road.

The development still faces a long process to gain approval.

Some residents have expressed concern about how the large development will fit into the rural community.

“I feel like CoaChella is going to be a beautiful addition to our county,” Willey said.

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Information from: The Spectrum, https://www.thespectrum.com


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