RS 2477 - Page 12 of 12

  • January 12th, 2011

    On January 11, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion in a case brought by SUWA and The Wilderness Society that challenged Kane County’s attempt to undermine federal land management of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  In a fairly technical ruling, the court held that conservationists were simply not the right parties to bring the suit because the interests they sought to protect, in the court’s view, belonged to the federal Bureau of Land Management, which manages the Monument.

    According to Heidi McIntosh, co-counsel on the case, “the court’s ruling does not in any way validate the County’s decision to take the law into its own hands by removing BLM’s ORV closure signs on federal lands, nor did it rule that any of the county’s R.S. 2477 road claims were valid.  In fact, the routes at the core of the issue are primitive and remote, with little if any use.  They do not go to schools, grocery stores or other public destinations, as some have argued. And in the end, not much has changed for the county as a result of this ruling.”

    The conflict arose in 2003 when the County objected to a federal land use plan issued by the BLM which closed a number of routes to vehicle use in order to protect various natural resources.  Such vehicle use contributes to erosion, introduces non-native weeds, disrupts wildlife and has been linked to the looting of archaeological sites.  The County then took the law into its own hands and removed the BLM signs and replaced them with signs inviting ORVs and other vehicles to use the routes.  The County also enacted an ordinance which invited ORV use throughout the county, including on the closed routes in the Monument.

    We filed the suit in 2005 after the BLM failed to take action to protect the Monument from the County’s extra-legal activities. Both the U.S. District Court in Utah and a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit ruled in our favor.  The County then requested a hearing by the full 11-judge appellate court, which issued the decision yesterday.

    McIntosh noted that, “conservationists have been doing the BLM’s job by holding off the county and its aggressive actions for over five years.  The county’s signs are down, the ordinance has been repealed.  Now BLM has to step up to the plate and do its job to make sure the Monument and its remarkable resources are fully protected.”

    Below; Kane County RS 2477 Claims (and route signs) in the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM
    Kane County RS 2477 Claim Kane County RS 2477 Claim

    The Wilderness Society joined SUWA in the suit, and Earthjustice attorneys Jim Angell, Ted Zukoski and McChristie Adams were co-counsel on the case with SUWA attorneys Heidi McIntosh and Steve Bloch.  Jim Angell brought outstanding advocacy skills to his oral argument before the case at the Tenth Circuit, and we thank him, Ted and The Wilderness Society for their outstanding efforts in this case.

  • September 17th, 2010

    As Kane County crows about the roads that the BLM and we agree are RS 2477 rights of way, you gotta wonder – what’s all the fuss about?  One of the routes is a paved road that leads to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  There was no dispute about this road or the other three, which were well-maintained dirt roads outside the areas proposed for wilderness protection.  No one ever tried to close these routes or halt maintenance (although both BLM and SUWA are on the same page that the County is not entitled the 66-foot width they’re hoping for).  Talk about much ado about nothing. Absolutely nothing changes as a result of the BLM’s agreeing to what everyone already knew.

    It’ll be another story, though, for the routes inside WSAs and the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  There, the County has claimed that rough, often impassable tracks are actually “highways.”  The BLM has rightfully said “no” to these claims, and we’re backing them up on that.

    Read more:

    Letter-to-the-Editor: Kane Wasting Money

    Salt Lake Tribune

    Deseret News


  • September 2nd, 2010

    According to a Deseret News story on August 31st, “Kane County officials are celebrating what they say is the first concession in Utah of the federal government agreeing to grant right-of-way access to disputed roads that cross federal lands” – for a route known as Skutumpah Road.

    But wait a minute . . . way back in 2000, Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt determined that Skutumpah, a graded, long-standing road, met the R.S. 2477 requirements.  We looked at the history of the road and agreed.  No one has opposed the County’s ability to do road work on Skutumpah, as long as the County stays out of adjoining wilderness study areas and Monument lands.  Still, Kane County refused to do road work there despite local residents’ repeated pleas for it to fix washouts and erosion, all because they wanted to make a federal case out of their – already recognized – rights to Skutumpah.

    (County officials are so bent on creating drama where none exists that they went so far as to remove essential safety signage on routes throughout the County – signs which no one objected to but which are critical to public safety.)

    So what’s the County crowing about?  That they’ve spent a million dollars on attorneys fees so far and have one route that everyone agreed to over a decade ago.