2005: APPEALS COURT RULES
UNCONSTRUCTED DIRT PATHS MAY BE STATE HIGHWAYS. In what appears to
be a major setback for those seeking to protect public lands from
bogus “highway” claims, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a
ruling in a Utah RS 2477 case on September 8. The opinion says
that Congress didn’t mean what it said when it required that
“highways” had to be “constructed.” Instead, the court concluded
“construction” meant nothing, and that federal courts must defer to
state law that allows ten years of use to establish a highway, whether
construction occurred or not.
Read the 100+ page
opinion. Conservationists and Utah’s attorneys differed over the
wisdom of the decision. See the State of Utah's
gloating press release and a
article in the Salt Lake Tribune and a
September 10 article in the
Deseret News. Read a
September 14 Salt
Lake Trib editorial urging restraint by Utah in pushing
seldom-used jeep tracks as highways. And read
a response from the
drive-anywhere Blue Ribbon Coalition, urging members to celebrate
the opinion by driving on any claimed route they want -- a sure recipe
for mayhem and destruction of public lands values.
The case grew out of three Utah counties’ unilateral
action in using heavy equipment to “grade” 15 little-used jeep tracks
to nowhere. A federal district court in Utah in 2001 and again in 2004
had found reasonable BLM’s conclusion that when Congress said that RS
2477 rights-of-way had to be “constructed” with tools and lead to an
identifiable destination. Read a
February 25, 2004, article about a Judge Campbell’s
decision. Read the court's
February 2004 ruling. And Read a March 1, 2004, Salt
editorial praising Judge Campbell's decision.
Conservationists are weighing seeking a rehearing from
the 10th Circuit and/or seeking review by the Supreme Court. If the
Tenth Circuit's decision is final, then the Utah district court will
have to use the new, nebulous standards for judging whether RS 2477
claims are valid.
UTAH COUNTIES & OFF ROAD GROUPS ARE PUSHING DIRT
TRACKS AS HIGHWAYS
Read how one county in Utah
is pushing off-road vehicle use on disputed roads by
promoting an off-road 'jamboree' in or near numerous sensitive areas.
Read a July 2003
resolution adopted by the National Association of Counties at the
urging of Utah counties that says RS 2477 "highways" can be
constructed by kicking a rock or two out of the way
2003: SENATOR LIEBERMAN INVESTIGATES PLANNED ROUTE GIVE-AWAYS IN
THE GRAND STAIRCASE
On December 4, 2003, US Senator Joseph Lieberman asked the Interior
Department to hand over data concerning the agency's previous
"surveys" of routes that may become the subject of Utah RS 2477
Read his letter and press release.
Read the December 5,
2003, Salt Lake Tribune article on Lieberman's letter.
2004: COUNTY, RENEGADE JEEPERS INVADE FRAGILE ARCH
In early May 2004 a band of 30 Jeep jockeys – spurred
by a county official - entered Arch Canyon, near Blanding, Utah,
having been denied a permit by the Bureau of Land Management for their
caper. They cited RS 2477.
The U.S. Attorney’s office is now considering legal
action against the ringleaders of the jeep invasion.
Read a June 18, 2004 story.