In Utah, state officials have asserted more than 10,000
right-of-way claims under RS 2477, many of which are nothing but cow
trails, footpaths, and vanishing scars from mining and prospecting
decades ago, and from off-road vehicles. These “phantom highways”
would slice and dice the spectacular landscapes and canyons found in
America's Redrock Wilderness Act and off-road-vehicle groups have
mapped what seems like every jeep trail and desert stream bed and
successfully urged counties to adopt their findings as “roads” on
county maps. Southern Utah counties now claim they have valid existing
rights-of-way under the repealed law that entitle them to lay claim to
phantom trails, and they are targeting national parks (including
Canyonlands and Zion) and lands proposed by Congress for wilderness
protection. These wilderness foes will argue that these rough,
unmaintained “roads” disqualify surrounding public lands for
In pursuit of this attempted takeover of public lands,
the state of Utah sent
formal notice to then-Interior Secretary of the
Interior Bruce Babbitt in June 2000 that the state, on behalf of itself and all
its counties, would file suit to gain rights-of-way to all these
alleged roads. The federal government, thundered the state's assistant
attorney general Stephen Boyden, has set up a situation "that is
intolerable and amounts to a federal claim of interest adverse to that
of the State and a usurpation of property rights vested in the State."
We have just posted (as of November 2004) maps that show the state's
claims. Note that every red line on these maps is an RS 2477 claim and
that the claims cross every national park, every wilderness area, and
every military reservation in Utah. See the maps:
PHOTOS AND MAPS OF PROPOSED "HIGHWAYS"
Click here for
news stories, letters, memoranda, and other material on various
aspects of the RS 2477 controversy.
UTAH-INTERIOR DEAL THREATENS
PUBLIC LANDS GIVEAWAY
April 2003, the Department of Interior entered an agreement with Utah
to grease the skids for giving up trails as "constructed highways" in
potential wilderness lands across Utah. Read about the political
firestorm that erupted in response, and find out how and where Utah is
planning to turn public lands into highways.
RS 2477 THREATENS DRINKING WATER
Several jurisdictions in Utah,
including Salt Lake City, worry that RS 2477 claims could lead to
damage to watersheds from which the cities draw their drinking water.
Click above to read all about this somewhat unexpected problem.
NATIONAL PARK STREAM
CLAIMED AS 'CONSTRUCTED HIGHWAY.' Salt Creek is one of the most
important streams in Canyonlands National Park - in fact it's the only
perennial water in the Park besides the Colorado and Green Rivers. But
that hasn't stopped San Juan County and the State of Utah from
claiming a ten-mile stretch of the stream as a constructed highway
under R.S. 2477.
UTAH, OFF-ROADERS ATTACK MEASURE TO PROTECT THE SAN RAFAEL SWELL.
The San Rafael Swell includes some of the most awe-inspiring scenery
in the Southwest, but off-road vehicles groups - and now the State of
Utah - are working to undo modest measures to keep some of the Swell
free from the damaging impacts of ORVs.
UTAH COUNTIES & OFF ROAD GROUPS ARE PUSHING DIRT TRACKS AS HIGHWAYS
seems to be growing against Utah counties that are making outrageous
claims to rights-of-way and going to extremes to get their way. Click
above for numerous articles and other material.
UTAH'S RS 2477
CLAIMS UNDER INTERIOR DEPARTMENT AGREEMENT HIT SPEED BUMPS.
In 2004, Utah laid claim to the Weiss
Highway, a road built by, and named for, a federal engineer, and thus
a route that could not be an RS 2477 right-of-way. In 2005, Utah is
pushing for four more routes, with little evidence to support its
STATE BRINGS SUIT CLAIMING ROUTES IN, NEAR WILDLANDS In
February 2005, the state of Utah sued the federal government to claim
jurisdiction over a half-dozen more roads in and near wildland
areas. Click the headline above for maps and more information.
County Accused of Falsifying Road Data For Money
A federal court complaint unsealed in February 2005
alleges that Uintah County defrauded the United States by claiming the
County maintained miles of roads that are mere dirt tracks.
Utah Attacks Alpine Wilderness in Western Utah
The Deep Creek Mountains -- a range that tops out at 12,000
feet and is home to the imperiled Bonneville cutthroat -- was found to
be a roadless, wild area 15 years ago. Now, Utah seeks to use RS 2477
as a sword to slash highways into and through legally protected
Wilderness Study Areas.
KANE AND GARFIELD COUNTIES TRY TO TAKE OVER
MANAGEMENT OF FEDERAL LANDS
Two large counties in southern Utah are engaged in an epic
struggle to claim rights-of-way over cow paths and faint trails in
national parks, monuments, recreation areas, and wildernesses.
JULY/AUGUST 2007: Mother Jones Magazine features
R.S. 2477 and ORVs in its summer edition.
Read a related article in The Daily Evergreen.
JUNE 2007: Conservation groups are
allowed to intervene in an important case that threatens Death Valley,
the largest National Park in the lower 48.
Read a press release.
MORE JUNE 2007 NEWS! Cache County Attempts Public Lands
The county goes up against the feds and claims it has a right to
Forest Service roads,
costing taxpayer dollars.
Read how the county subverts the law as a
conservation group works
to protect Utah from this attempted land grab.
View a slideshow of Salt Creek and see how RS 2477 claims threaten
a rare oasis in Canyonlands National Park.
Utah is accused of favoritism in the awarding of a no-bid
contract to help prepare for upcoming RS2477 battles.
Read the Salt Lake
Tribune's account of November 26, 2005.
April 15, 2005: Utah agency refuses request to
turn over documents.
In early May 2004 a band of
30 Jeep jockeys entered Arch Canyon, near Blanding, Utah, having been
denied a permit by the Bureau of Land Management for their caper. They
cited RS 2477. An account of the story was reported in the Salt
Environmental groups filed
suit on April 22 in an attempt to gain access to documents the federal
government has refused to disclose concerning how it intends to
resolve RS 2477 claims. Read a
WHERE'S THE HIGHWAY?
The slot in the photo above is narrower than the
width of a normal vehicle. To get into the slot, a motorist on this
Garfield County "highway" would have to drive down a waterfall.
Location: The Gulch, North Escalante Canyons, Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument, photo by Gordon Swenson.
the press: The Salt Lake Tribune
followed up on the favoritism
story on January 6, 2006, giving credit to Heidi McIntosh (above),
of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, for
blowing the whistle. She is also featured in a November 2005
story on Kane
County and RS 2477.