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RS-2477 Roads Discussed in Lands Meeting

Staff Writer

At the July Emery County Public Lands meeting, Chairman Dennis Worwood addressed the final agenda item with a little history. He said that several years ago Mark H. Williams had approached the commissioners with the proposal to assign an officer to the San Rafael Swell roads to patrol and enforce the existing laws for travel in the Swell. At the time, Williams' group had ample money to reimburse the county for the officer's pay. The commissioners, at that time, told the group that they were not interested.

In March of this year with the Bureau of Land Management's reimbursement, the county assigned a deputy to the area and now Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL) is threatening a law suit.

Worwood read a letter that the county commissioners had received from USA-ALL attorney, Paul Mortensen. In the letter Mortensen referred to several Utah laws about access and travel on public roads. This letter stated that the county has three choices: open the roads, abandon the roads or face a law suit.

Mortensen wrote that Utah law states that a road must be kept open unless the county chooses to abandon that road. It is his allegation that Emery County has illegally allowed the BLM to close four roads that are not designated in the RS-2477 road plan. Mortensen's contention is that if the roads are not designated, they must be left open for public use and that it is the county's responsibility to remove the barricades erected by the BLM.

The roads in question are: Muddy River Road, June's Bottom Road, Seger's Hole Road, and Upper Sid and Charlie Road. Mortensen said those roads are RS-2477, but closed by the BLM as a result of the county's failure to require that they be included in the designated road system.

Brian Hawthorne, who represented USA-ALL at the meeting, expressed his desired that the roads be left open. Although, he said that if the county chooses to abandon them, then the BLM could close them legally. He also stated that the group is not against law enforcement, but the law enforcement that is on the Swell at present is there patrolling illegally closed roads. It is Hawthorne's contention that there is inconsistency between state law and the travel plan.

Worwood expressed that Congress has instructed the county three times to protect the Swell, "The county cannot jump ahead of the process by responding to your letter at the present time," he said. "Congress perceives a problem and Congress makes the rules. The county is actively engaged in the process of RS-2477 roads," said Worwood.

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