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Southern Utah Officials, Environmentalists At Odds Over Proposed New Highway

Southern Utah officials who want to build a highway across a picturesque national reserve say a proposed land deal would stave off major road congestion in the fast-growing area.

Environmentalists worry it would hurt the threatened Mojave desert tortoise and other sensitive species. 

The St. George Spectrum reports that the plans call for a "Northern Corridor" highway across the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

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Washington County officials are proposing a land swap with the federal government that would give the county public lands needed to accommodate the road.

But conservation and environmental protection groups are accusing officials of a "bait-and-switch" tactic to overturn federal protections for the threatened Mojave desert tortoise and other species on the reserve.