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Proposed I-11 faces legal challenge over scorpion-eating snake's habitat

A plan to link northern and southern Arizona with a new freeway has met widespread local opposition and a legal challenge.

But there’s a separate issue — Interstate 11 could also carve up the habitat of a colorful species of snake that eats scorpions.

One version of the project would run parallel to I-10 and would pass by southern Arizona tribal communities and national monuments that serve as habitat for threatened species, such as the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl.

The region is also home to the Tucson shovel-nosed snake.

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity says the nonprofit has challenged a Fish and Wildlife Service decision to deny protection for the species.

"A lot of its range is right in the heart of where I-11 would be, so I-11 would be a major threat to the species," Greenwald said.

He says the agency based its findings on a misinterpretation of a genetic study.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday.

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