A Clouded Win for Utah and Kane County

gavel(Denver Colorado)-The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has overruled key parts of a Utah judge’s recent decision to award Kane County and the state title to 12 routes on federal land, but the three-judge panel concluded that routes deemed open in the Bureau of Land Management’s travel management plans are not really in dispute. Accordingly, the judges said, the court lacks jurisdiction to award title under RS 2477, an old statute that allows states to claim rights of way if they can show 10 years of continuous use prior to the law’s repeal in 1976. Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says, “It’s a partial victory for the federal government and, at the same time, cuts Utah’s ‘win’ at the district court in half and then some,” State attorneys saw much to like in the ruling, but said they intend to return to the 10th Circuit to seek clarification.

“On balance, it’s a favorable decision,” said Assistant Attorney General Tony Rampton, who leads the office’s public lands section. The 10th Circuit affirmed the state’s claims to six of the roads. “But even with the other six, the court said if there is no dispute to the title, the state and county can assume their title is good and they can treat these roads as county roads and manage them accordingly.” The 12 routes dissected in the case are not the only claims at stake. Thousands of rural Utah road claims are awaiting action in Salt Lake City’s federal court.

 

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