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Conservationists concerned that I-11 project could harm wildlife

A proposed freeway from Nogales to Kingman is still in the planning stages and was not included in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. But conservationists worry that funding could help move the project forward.

Interstate 11 has met opposition from environmental groups and southern Arizona residents, who say it is not necessary and would destroy habitat, particularly for large mammals such as mountain lions and bighorn sheep.

The project must undergo further environmental review, a step that has not been funded.

Sandy Bahr, of the Sierra Club, says the freeway would stop wildlife movement and disrupt desert ecosystems.

“When you chop up the land into increasingly smaller pieces, you end up losing that connectivity which helps to sustain healthy populations of wildlife,” Bahr said.

Barr says she’s concerned that funding from the infrastructure bill could still find its way into the process.

Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.