The RS2477 Threat

Lands at Risk

Threats to
Private Property



Act Now!




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Utah | Wyoming


Interior Department's Public Land Giveaway

Department of the Interior documents indicate that the agency is poised to adopt a streamlined process for considering and approving requests from county governments in the West to gain control of thousands of Jeep tracks and faint trails. This could entail the federal government’s effectively surrendering control of the tracks, some of which cross national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, wildernesses, and wilderness study areas.

Some counties hope the new process will literally pave the way for an explosion of off-road vehicle use and extractive uses of federal lands, and block potential new wilderness designations.

Adding to the alarm public-lands defenders feel about the news is the fact that an agreement being quietly negotiated between the Utah office of the Bureau of Land Management and Kane County (Utah) is likely to be a model—a template it’s called in the documents—to be used throughout the West. Anyone with even a passing interest with RS 2477 and the long-running controversy surrounding it knows about Kane County, a law unto itself. Upon creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the county sent in heavy equipment to “maintain” little used jeep tracks, turning them into significant roads. Angered that the BLM would not agree to open miles of dirt tracks in the monument, the county installed signs announcing that the tracks were open anyway. BLM threatened to sue the county, so the county sued the BLM. And now, the two entities are cooking up a settlement that could lead to the giveaway of rights-of-way to thousands of miles of trails and faint tracks, possibly even streambeds.

The documents also show that the agency appears ready to revoke a standing department policy that placed a hold on recognizing new rights-of-way. And if that weren’t enough, the Interior Department seems ready to effectively recognize through “road maintenance agreements” numerous two-track roadways as county highways, thus relinquishing a significant measure of federal control over them. Much of this flies in the face of a federal law passed nearly a decade ago that prohibits the Interior Department from adopting a final rule or regulation concerning RS 2477.

The documents mentioned above include a “Status Report and Potential Implementation Plan” dated January 26, 2006, and distributed by agency official Kit Kimball at a meeting held the following day and attended by Colorado Counties, Inc. There are also three emails—one, from December 16, 2005, from Paul Smyth, an agency lawyer in Washington, DC, to two colleagues, which mentions “the Secretary’s revocation of earlier Secretarial RS 2477 guidance;” and another email the same day from Dorman to Daniel Domenico, another agency lawyer, which mentions working on “road maintenance agreements” and going on to suggest that the Kane County agreement could be “a good model for dealing with most of the issues we’re talking about.”

Lawyers for Earthjustice and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance have written to BLM officials in Utah to inquire about the negotiations between the agency and Kane County and the regulations under consideration and to insist that the public be involved in the process, as has Congressman Mark Udall.


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