Utah sues for county roads
|Link Flat road is on the list of roads named in the lawsuit.|
Utah files lawsuit to let public use seven public roads again
The state of Utah and Emery County filed a lawsuit on June 29 asking a judge to reopen seven public roads that were shut down by the federal government. The lawsuit claims that the Bureau of Land Management illegally closed seven roads in Emery County.
"The state and Emery County already own these roads and we are simply asking the courts to remind the federal government of this fact," says Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr.
The lawsuit is the latest effort of the Public Roads Over Public Lands Project*a joint effort among the Governor's Office, the Attorney General's Office and Utah's counties to preserve state and local ownership and control of Utah's established public roads over public lands. The project has filed lawsuits over seven other roads and is working with the BLM on six more roads.
"We are talking about roads that have been built and used by Utahns. It's time for Utahns to get their roads back," says Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Here is a brief description of the seven roads in question and some of their long-time uses:
* Mexican Mountain Road is 16 miles long and located in eastern Emery County. The road has been used for sightseeing, recreation, law enforcement, mineral exploration and search-and-rescue efforts.
* Seeger's Hole Road is an 11 mile stretch in southwest Emery County. It has been used for sightseeing, recreation, law enforcement, mineral exploration and traveling.
* Sid's Leap Road spans 6 miles in eastern Emery County. The road has been used for recreation, mineral exploration and search and rescue. It has also been used by visitors to see where Sid Swasey purportedly jumped his horse over a large chasm to avoid a sheriff's posse at the turn of the century.
* Red Hole Draw Road is two miles long and located in western Emery County. Prior to its recent closure, the road was used for livestock management, sightseeing, recreation and traveling.
* Link Flat Road stretches three miles in southwest Emery County. The public used it for livestock management, sightseeing and mineral exploration.
* June's Bottom Road is six miles long and located in southeastern Emery County near a scenic and historic part of the Green River. Until its recent closure, the road was used for sightseeing, recreation and mineral exploration.
* Copper Globe Road spans 14 miles near I-70 in southwest Emery County. The road provided access to the Copper Globe Mine in the early 1900s and has been used for ranching, hunting, sightseeing and prospecting.
The lawsuit is asking the courts to recognize state and local rights under R.S. 2477*a law that granted public rights-of-way across public lands. Congress repealed R.S. 2477 in 1976, but made it clear that every right-of-way already established under the statute was still valid. However, the BLM has since closed travel and road maintenance on R.S. 2477 roads in Emery County and other parts of the state. The BLM has also taken the position that using or maintaining the roads would be trespassing.
The court papers note that 69 percent of the land in Utah is owned by the federal government and numerous roads traverse federally-owned lands. Assistant Attorneys General Edward Ogilvie, Ralph Finlayson, Roger Fairbanks and Jaysen Oldroyd will be representing Utah in the lawsuit.