Friday, March 22, 2013
Judge rules largely in favor of Utah on rural roads dispute
A federal judge handed a landmark victory to Kane County and the state of Utah on Wednesday in a years-long dispute with the federal government over whether some rural routes should remain in use as roads, or if they should be closed to the public. In two decisions, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups found he had jurisdiction to hear Kane County’s claim, gave parameters for "reasonable" right-of-way widths on some routes and determined that 12 of 15 routes in dispute were roads and therefore accessible by the public. The distinction hinged on an 1866 law through which Congress sought to encourage development by allowing local jurisdictions to manage routes across public lands...Kane County Commission Chairman Doug Heaton said Thursday the ruling vindicates the county in its fight to continue to travel what he described as historic thoroughfares. "We’re confident the judge took great pains to get it right," he said. "We’re excited the court has ruled in our favor." Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General John Swallow also hailed the decision, which Swallow said shows "these historic public roads have and will continue to belong to the people of Utah." Swallow said the federal government’s refusal to recognize the routes as state and county roads had "damaged the economy and put motorists at risk" by impeding routine maintenance. Of the 12 routes deemed roads, four are in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The rest are on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s Kanab office. Waddoups traveled all of the disputed routes with attorneys in the case over two days in December 2010. He presided over a trial in the case in August 2011 and took additional testimony in January 2012. Waddoups heard from county workers and local residents about how each route was used prior to 1976 and then how most were maintained later by the county. Waddoups noted, for example, that Upper Mill Creek was used prior to 1976 for "the apparent purposes of gathering firewood, cutting cedar posts, hunting and scouting for deer, gathering pine nuts, and general sightseeing." One Kane County rancher recounted local lore of how John D. Lee cut timber and operated a saw mill in the area in the late 1800s, which led to the route’s name. Similar uses were declared for most of the other disputed routes. The state and 22 of Utah’s 29 counties have filed more than 20 lawsuits laying claim to more than 12,000 rights-of-way on public land...more
Utah you see, is a state. NM is, well I'm not sure what we are anymore. And then there is this from the Utah Attorney General:
Swallow said the federal government’s refusal to recognize the routes as state and county roads had "damaged the economy and put motorists at risk" by impeding routine maintenance.
The feds would rather put the public at risk than relinquish one single acre of "public" land.