RS 2477 Archives


  • July 29th, 2014

    Contend that state law bars Attorney General from bringing Tooele County RS 2477 lawsuit

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.859.1552 (cell) or 801.428.3981 (office)
    Brent V. Manning & Jess M. Krannich, Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar LLC, 801.363.5678

    (July 29, 2014) Salt Lake City, UT: Today a Tooele County resident and taxpayer, along with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, filed a lawsuit in Third District Court (state court) alleging that the State Attorney General acted illegally when he brought a federal lawsuit claiming more than 2,400 miles of alleged RS 2477 “roads” in Tooele County. The lawsuit asks the court to bar the State from pursuing or funding its federal lawsuit seeking title over RS 2477 “roads” in Tooele County and to declare that the Attorney General acted illegally when he brought the case in the first place.

    CedarMtns2_RayBloxham

    Cedar Mountain Wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    “The State’s lawsuit threatens some of Tooele County’s wildest places, including the Cedar Mountain Wilderness and North Stansbury and Indian Peaks proposed wilderness areas,” said Michael Abdo, a Tooele County resident. “These are places I go with friends, family, and Boy Scouts to appreciate their natural beauty and quiet. The State’s attempt to establish ‘roads’ in these areas is misguided, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

    In the past decade the State legislature has spent millions of dollars in an ill-advised effort to claim that alleged “roads,” including faded two-tracks and stream bottoms, are actually State highways that can be improved and paved to a minimum width of 66 feet. Some are virtually impossible to locate. Often the routes lead to no landmark or destination, and are not part of any reasonably described transportation network.   The legislature funds its RS 2477 litigation campaign from millions allocated to the Public Lands Policy Coordination Office, the Constitutional Defense Council, and the Attorney General’s Office.

    DugwayMtnsWIA_RayBloxham

    Dugway Mountains proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    “The State’s RS 2477 litigation is part of its larger effort to take control of public lands and block congressional wilderness designation,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “If successful, this lawsuit will bring an end to the state’s expensive and senseless campaign.”

    State law bars the State from bringing a lawsuit claiming title to real property unless its right or title accrued within seven years of the filing of the case. Here, the State’s alleged title to RS 2477 rights-of-way accrued no later than 1976, when Congress repealed that statute. Thus, the State’s power to bring a lawsuit seeking title over RS 2477 “roads” in Tooele County lapsed more than 25 years before the State filed its case.

    The State’s and Toole County’s lawsuit is brought directly contrary to Utah law and the constitutional requirement that the State Attorney General act in accordance with Utah law. According to the plain language of the applicable Utah statute: “The state may not bring an action against any person for or with respect to any real property, its issues or profits, based upon the state’s right or title to the real property, unless: (1) the right or title to the property accrued within seven years before any action or other proceeding is commenced […]”Utah Code Ann. § 78B-2-201 (emphasis added). Nonetheless, the State is disregarding its own laws to pursue an anti-wilderness agenda.

    CedarMtns_RayBloxham

    Cedar Mountain Wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    It is popular in this state to criticize the courts if they do not follow the plain language of the law as enacted by the Utah legislature. Here, the language chosen by the legislature is clear: “the state may not bring an action … unless the right … to the property accrued within seven years…” Notwithstanding this clear prohibition, the Attorney General and Toole County are spending millions of dollars in direct violation of Utah law to pursue what Public Land Policy Coordination Office Director Kathleen Clarke recently described as “the largest litigation ever taken on by the State of Utah.” With this lawsuit, Mr. Abdo and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance seek to stop the wasteful and illegal expenditure of taxpayer money, the apparent object of which is to disqualify lands for Wilderness designation.

    The State’s RS 2477 lawsuit in Tooele County is one of more than twenty-five (25) lawsuits filed by the State of Utah and its counties claiming more than 14,000 rights of way totaling nearly 35,000 miles of dirt trails and routes on public lands. Taken together, this massive litigation threatens several national parks and monuments as well as iconic Utah wilderness landscapes.

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    Click to view  map of RS 2477 claims
    TooeleCo_EntireCounty
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  • July 8th, 2014
    Anti-federal protesters join San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman on an illegal ride through Recapture Canyon on May 10, 2014.

    Anti-federal protesters join San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman on an illegal ride through Recapture Canyon on May 10, 2014.

    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and our partners at The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust and Great Old Broads for Wilderness delivered a letter to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze requesting that his agency continue to protect the irreplaceable prehistoric cultural resources in Recapture Canyon. We urged the director not to abdicate his agency’s responsibility to comply with the BLM’s federal travel planning regulations by giving a right-of-way to San Juan County for the illegally constructed ORV trail through the canyon. We also called upon the director to ensure that, once the agency completes its investigation, it will take all appropriate steps to fully prosecute the individuals who violated the agency’s ORV closure in the canyon on May 10th during Commissioner Lyman’s illegal ORV event.

    We recognize the challenges facing the BLM in managing our public lands and preserving our cultural heritage, especially in response to recent acts of opposition to the agency’s authority.  However, failing to enforce federal laws that were enacted to protect priceless archaeological treasures merely opens the door for further vandalism and other illegal acts.

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  • May 29th, 2014

    On May 10, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman led dozens of anti-federal government protesters driving off-road vehicles (ORVs) past the BLM’s signs prohibiting ORV use into Recapture Canyon. Although there are approximately 4,000 miles of designated routes open to ORV use on public lands in San Juan County (2,820 miles managed by the Monticello BLM and another 1,000 miles managed by the Moab BLM), Commissioner Lyman said he was leading the illegal ORV ride to protest the “jurisdictional creep” of the federal government and the notion that the BLM “arbitrarily shut down a road in San Juan County.”

    Far from an arbitrary action, BLM’s 2007 closure of the Recapture trail to motorized vehicles was based on evidence that the illegally constructed ORV trail and subsequent ORV use was causing adverse effects to the prehistoric cultural resources in and near the trail. Please tell the BLM it should maintain the existing closure to protect these resources rather than giving a right-of-way for the illegal trail to San Juan County.

    The illegal event in Recapture Canyon is but another result of the misguided “take back federal lands” rhetoric spewed by a small cadre of western elected officials. Commissioner Lyman’s “childish snit fit,” which showed complete disregard for irreplaceable prehistoric cultural resources, is a perfect example of why state and local officials should not be entrusted with our public lands legacy.

    Commission Lyman’s statements to the media that “[i]t feels great” after riding into the closed area illustrate a complete disrespect for both federal law and the Native Americans who continue to honor the cultural values of the canyon today. The commissioner’s actions in defiance of the BLM’s ORV Closure Order and in violation of laws enacted to protect our cultural heritage must not go unpunished.

    Most importantly, the BLM must continue to protect the archaeological resources of Recapture Canyon and not cave to political pressure to give San Juan County a right-of-way for the illegally constructed route. Click here to send a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze asking him to deny the county’s right-of-way request for the illegal ORV trails in Recapture Canyon.

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