|ATV riders are sometimes confused as to which roads are open and which are closed.|
Steve Boyden, from the public lands department of the governor's office, spoke to the Emery County Public Lands Council at its August meeting. He talked about the RS-2477 process and how it stands at present. He said the state and Emery County have been working hard on this process for six-eight years.
"At the present time, Emery County has GPS coordinates for all the roads in the county. After all the information and documentation is gathered, it will be sent to the Automated Geographic Research Center. AGRC will translate all of the information taken, and then compare it to aerial photography from 1976. Many roads have come into being from construction as well as constant travel," said Boyden.
Boyden went on to say that if a road has been used constantly for 10 years, it is considered a public road under Utah State law. Meetings are now being held to determine qualification for RS-2477. He added that in many cases, some under questionable circumstances or due to realignment, the county has already received Title 5 rights-of-way from the Bureau of Land Management.
The next step in the process is to take all the necessary documents to the county recorder for recording. These documents will include descriptions, maps, and photos. Some of the roads will be called segments. That does not necessarily mean it is a road to nowhere. It will show an end where it crosses private or state land. "We are talking only roads on BLM land," stated Boyden. "We are working with SITLA for those portions of road on their lands."
Boyden stated that his agency anticipates filing several in our county very soon. The agencies are doing only class B roads now. These are roads that receive state maintenance funding. Class D roads are the roads that get minimal maintenance. When the class B roads are completely through the process, class D roads will begin.
"Any documentation we can gather for the roads now is very important. Affidavits must be taken because sometimes the aerial photography is not totally accurate. Because the Federal Land Policy Management Act took over in October of 1976, those individuals who can sign affidavits to prove a road was in existence prior to that are getting older. We lose much needed documentation information every day. We need verification and dates for each road. It is getting more difficult everyday to prove claims," said Boyden.
Commissioner Ira Hatch introduced Bethany Toomer who was hired by Emery County to continue the verification process. "She is working diligently to verify the existence of those roads. She is required to get the answers to many questions, such as when the road was built, what was the original use, what is the amount of travel, has any portion of the road been relocated, and the present day usage," said Commissioner Hatch.
|Roads have long been a concern to Emery County residents. This road to Belleview Flat was washed out last fall from a severe rainstorm.|
It was explained that the county does not have to claim every road or segment in the county. Old uranium mine roads that dead end may not be claimed. Once a road is claimed, it can only be abandoned by official proclamation. The roads which are being claimed are those roads that lead to certain points.
Boyden went on to say that the relationship between Emery County and the BLM is one of cooperation, and the decisions are being made. He stated that the rules have come down from the courts and each party is following those rules.
When asked about Title 5 on some roads, Boyden said, "Title 5 came about because of FLPMA. If a road is approved, the petitioning party can get a right of way to that road. Many times this process and the right of way come at no cost to the public for its use. Prior to FLPMA, anyone who wanted to could build a road anywhere on public lands. FLPMA stopped that practice and now regulates the construction and maintenance of roads on public lands. RS-2477 is part of an 1866 mining law that is being pursued now for ownership of roads that were in existence prior to FLPMA in 1976.
"Prior to 1976, there was no paperwork on road construction. Now we must locate and claim all roads, we must prove each road was constructed and in use prior to FLPMA. The paperwork for ownership must be created. All this information will be put into the state archives," said Boyden.
Boyden stated that the BLM is trying with their resource management plan and identification process to close illegitimate roads. Emery County wants to get into the position they can identify and mark all legitimate roads so they can be used by the public.
" You have lots of people who love to ride ATVs, and while they are riding they cannot tell which roads are legitimate and which are not. We need an adequate road system that people can recognize which is clearly marked. In Washington County, more than half of the roads there now were not there in 1976, so this process will cut down on the proliferation of roads.
"The roads Emery County is claiming and the roads that the BLM wants are not that far apart. This will work out. The RS-2477 project will be the biggest protective measure for public land when it is complete.
"In order for this situation to work itself out, cooperation is needed from all parties involved. The 10th Circuit Court was very specific about two track roads. Before any maintenance can be done to a road, such as grading, graveling or paving, permission must be granted by the BLM, and the BLM does not want any undue degradation," concluded Boyden.
Commissioner Hatch thanked Boyden and commended him and his department for being so helpful to Emery County through this process.