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Road plan threatens southwestern parks.

NPCA is working to block a proposal to build a four-lane interstate highway through the canyonlands of northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Last February, NPCA joined with other conservation groups to write to Gov. Fife Symington (R) of Arizona, urging that the proposal to extend Interstate 17 northward from Flagstaff, Arizona, through Utah's canyon country be reconsidered for environmental, cultural, safety, and economic reasons.

The highway extension would slice through Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah. It would also pass five miles from the eastern border of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and within a short distance of Zion National Park in Utah.

NPCA believes the highway would severely damage the fragile desert ecosystem of the area, worsening air quality and destroying habitat for endangered plants and animals.

"The road not only would have huge environmental impacts but would set off a development boom near the parks," said David Simon, NPCA Southwest regional director.

The proposed route cuts through the western part of the Navajo Reservation, which is noted for one of the largest concentrations of prehistoric remains, burials, and archaeological sites in North America. The highway, intended as part of a Canada-to-Mexico trucking corridor, would also direct traffic into one of the most hazardous winter driving regions in the nation.

A significantly shorter route could be created by upgrading existing roads between Phoenix and Las Vegas. The cost of upgrading these roads has been projected at $165 million less than the cost of the I-17 extension.

Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) has called for a look at alternative routes. In early August, it appeared that public opinion was solidly in favor of the Phoenix-to-Las-Vegas alternative, and the Arizona Department of Transportation had begun consideration of routes besides the I-17 extension.
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Title Annotation:northern Arizona and southern Utah
Author:McCarty, Laura P.
Publication:National Parks
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:292
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