Utah to sue U.S. over control of trails

Discussion in 'Land Use' started by mudfanatic, May 9, 2000.

  1. mudfanatic

    mudfanatic 1/2 ton status

    Feb 18, 2000
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    Aloha, Oregon
    Saturday, 6 May 2000
    Utah to sue U.S. over control of trails crisscrossing state

    The Associated Press

    SALT LAKE CITY - Gov. Mike Leavitt committed the state yesterday to a
    battle with the federal government over who controls a network of dirt
    trails winding across rural Utah.

    "Over the span of the last nearly 30 years it's been our state's burden
    continually have to press for access to rights of way that we have used,
    many cases, since the pioneers entered this valley 150 years ago," said

    The governor was flanked by members of Utah's congressional delegation,
    state legislators and county commissioners and replica road signs reading
    "Our Roads, Our Rights."

    He signed an executive order instructing the attorney general to notify
    federal government of its intent to sue over the road jurisdiction and
    create an office to gather evidence to be used in court.

    Last legislative session, lawmakers approved spending $2 million a year
    litigating right-of-way battles.

    At issue is who has control over as many as 5,000 dirt roads and trails
    across Utah.

    A federal law passed shortly after the Civil War allowed counties to
    control over traditional thoroughfares across federal land. But the
    and Bureau of Land Management have clashed over how to define a

    There are a number of trails the BLM does not classify as roads and has
    closed to travel. Rural Utah residents say the primitive paths are vital
    their livelihoods in ranching or mining.

    "These roads are the veins and arteries of a county's economic
    cardiovascular system," said San Juan County Commissioner William Redd.
    "Kill them and you kill the counties."

    Mike Reberg, spokesman for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said
    talking in such dire terms distorts the issue.

    "These are not roads. These are cow trails and double-track wagon tracks
    that lead to nowhere," he said. "For people to claim a cow trail is
    essential for their livelihood is just crazy."

    Reberg said the real motivation is to prevent the land from being
    as federally protected wilderness.

    To qualify as wilderness, the land cannot have any recognized roads
    it. And, since wilderness can only be set aside in 5,000-acre chunks,
    enough cattle tracks established as roads would remove vast tracts of
    wilderness from consideration.

    "The lawsuit in general is a large taxpayer drain designed to thwart
    to preserve federal lands as wilderness," Reberg said.

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