The RS2477 Threat

Lands at Risk

Threats to
Private Property



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2005 saw the State of Utah submitting applications for six routes as RS 2477 rights of way under the arguably illegal Disclaimer Rule and the Interior Department's Memorandum of Understanding, and more, which was supposed to address “indisputable” county highways. But the state apparently hasn't learned a lot from its failed attempt to have BLM recognize the Weiss Highway (see below), continuing to rely on little to no evidence to support its claims. For two claims submitted in April 2005--for Alexa Lane and the Snake Pass route in Millard County--Utah couldn’t even dig up aerial photos from before 1976, the date by which the state has to show highway construction took place. Instead, they rely almost exclusively on decades-old memories that often conflict with other evidence. See conservationists' August 5 letter and some of the maps and photos conservationists presented to BLM, including:

  • Excerpts of Utah's official 1937 highway map of Millard County, showing no sign of the Snake Pass route, and only a little spur of the Alexa Lane route, despite the fact that some of Utah's old-timers allege both routes had been used for years by the mid-1930s.

  • A comparison of aerial photos taken in 1978 and the mid 1990s for both the Alexa Lane and Snake Pass claims, showing that while the route looks very defined in the 1990s, it sure didn't in 1978.

  • A Civilian Conservation Corps map from 1936, showing that at least part of the Alexa Lane map was built by the CCC (not the County), and showing other CCC structures along the route, indicating the CCC built the rest of the route as well.

Read conservationists' press release and an August 11, 2005 Salt Lake Tribune story.

On September 7, 2005, citing the objections lodged by Earthjustice for The Wilderness Society, the Wild Utah Project, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management for Utah wrote to the Utah attorney general requesting various kinds of documentary evidence and testimony to bolster the state's claim to the six routes. Read the letter, the conservation groups' press release, a story in the Deseret News, and another in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Conservationists also found plenty to question with four February applications, too. See their 90-page comment letter, a conservationist press release, and a Salt Lake Tribune article concerning the claims. See some of the maps and photos conservationists presented to BLM, including:


In January 2004, Utah submitted its first application for a disclaimer for a alleged R.S. 2477 highway. 

The state made a bad choice to make their case that the disclaimer rule and the Interior Department's "Memorandum of Understanding" would address “indisputable” county highways.  Read comments submitted by Earthjustice on behalf of The Wilderness Society, May 2004. The comments show  what Utah failed to mention in claiming this route as a county highway-that the road was constructed by the federal Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s to assist ranchers with federal grazing permits at the behest of the Interior Department’s “Division of Grazing” (now BLM). In other words, this alleged county road was built by federal government, with federal labor and federal funds, over federal lands to serve a federal purpose.

See also comments filed on the application by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Sierra Club. Read documents showing the CCCs role--and showing Utah's lack of evidence for their claim. Read a Salt Lake Tribune account  describing the environmentalists' comments titled, "Road ownership test case hits a bump."

Forced to admit that the Weiss Highway was and should remain a federal highway, Utah backed down in September 2004, withdrawing their request for a disclaimer.  Read their withdrawal letter, a conservationist press release on the withdrawal and a Salt Lake Tribune story.

Read a thorough report on the entire Weiss Highway saga from High Country News, December 20, 2004.

Utah claims that the Snake Pass route - shown here with plants growing down the middle - as an important "constructed highway." Photo © Jeff Kessler, 2005. Used by permission.

One of Utah's claimed important 'constructed highways' -- the Horse Valley route -- showing well maintained sagebrush running down the middle. Photo © Jeff Kessler, 2005. Used by permission.

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