The Washington, D.C., office of the National Audubon Society has entered the fray over the location of the proposed West Davis Highway.

In a letter to a U.S. Army official at the Pentagon, copies of which were sent to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Utah's congressional delegation, the environmental group's senior vice president of public policy says state and local officials are pushing a route that will lead to "the utter destruction of hundreds of acres of high-quality wetlands."Daniel P. Beard's letter, dated April 30, refers to the Great Salt Lake wetlands as an "American treasure" that supports a wide variety of wildlife, including the world's largest populations of Wilson's phalaropes and eared grebes.

Beard encourages the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stand firm in its previously expressed opposition to the Utah Department of Transportation's preferred route, which would place the 13-mile, four-lane highway farther to the west along the lake's shoreline than other alignment options.

The road "should be a link between the past and thoughtful growth and development into the next century. Do not let (the highway) pave the way for special interests to destroy critical wetlands and bird habitat by circumventing the law," Beard wrote.

UDOT hopes to complete an environmental impact study on the proposed route by late summer.