CONTACT: Steve Bloch, Litigation Director 801-428-3981

Trial court judge grants State of Utah and Kane County handful of RS 2477 rights-of-way; Stage is set for appeal and litigation

The "North Swag" RS 2477 claim, located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

SALT LAKE CITY (March 21, 2013): Conservationists were not surprised yesterday when a United States trial court judge ruled that the State of Utah and Kane County, Utah had established a handful of rights-of-way across public lands in southwestern Utah.  The ruling rejected arguments raised by the United States and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance that the lawsuit should have been dismissed and that the State and County had not met their burden to establish these rights of way.  It is widely expected that the United States will appeal the trial court’s ruling to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Of the twelve (12) routes at issue in the decision, four are located in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  A photograph of one of the routes referred to in the decision as the “North Swag” route is shown below.  The remaining routes in the case are located on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s Kanab field office.

This case is one of thirty (30) 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.  Many of the routes claimed in these lawsuits are nothing more than faded two-tracks and stream bottoms.  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.

“Taken together, this tsunami of litigation threatens several national parks and monuments as well as iconic Utah wilderness landscapes,” said Steve Bloch, SUWA’s Litigation Director.  Conservation groups, including the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, are seeking to participate in the majority of these lawsuits to protect these remarkable public lands.