When we last left our story, SUWA was struggling mightily to stem the tide of a tsunami of RS 2477 lawsuits and road claims that threatened to overwhelm Utah’s federal public lands. National Parks were imperiled. So was the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and millions of acres of redrock wilderness. Would we survive?
We’re pleased to report that SUWA and our conservation partners have not only survived, but we have laid the groundwork for participating to the fullest extent we’re allowed to defeat many of the State of Utah’s unsupported RS 2477 “road” claims.
Notably, SUWA has filed and fully briefed motions to participate in 23 of the state’s RS 2477 lawsuits. We expect a ruling shortly that will grant SUWA the right to intervene. This is no small feat when you consider that at this time last year we had not yet filed a single one of these motions, each of which must be adapted to fit the county at issue. The motions are essential to our being permitted to actively defend the United States’ title to the more than 14,000 road claims in the state’s litigation.
We are also reviewing maps, aerial photos, musty BLM files, and tens of thousands of pages of state and county documents dating back to the turn of the last century, all in an effort to better understand the background and basis for the state’s thousands of claims.
Finally, we’re deploying teams of attorneys across the state to attend and help “defend” depositions being conducted by the state and counties. “Law and Order” this ain’t. These depositions are often held in cold, poorly lit conference rooms in county buildings scattered around the state and can run on for days as elderly witnesses strive to remember the condition and use of dirt roads and trails more than half a century ago. Because the state has pinned so much on these depositions, and because the U.S. Justice Department attorneys are so overworked, our presence and engagement is hugely important.
None of this would be possible without your support and the support of a team of attorneys from national and local firms who are working alongside us to protect Utah’s redrock wilderness. We thank you all.
[From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, autumn/winter 2013 issue]