The RS2477 Threat

Lands at Risk

Threats to
Private Property



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2003-2004: Wyoming Law Protects Public Lands from Bogus Highway Claims
In Wyoming, an October 2003 state Supreme Court ruling may limit the ability of RS 2477 proponents to press cattle tracks, wash bottoms, and hiking trails as 'constructed public highways' under the 1866 law. That's because in 1919, the Wyoming legislature rebelled against a prior state Supreme Court opinion that said anyone could create a highway. Worried about the broad implications of that ruling, the legislature passed a law in 1919 that a route cannot be a 'highway' for RS 2477 purposes unless it was officially adopted by the county through a resolution adopting the route as a county highway.

The Wyoming Supreme Court's October 2003 ruling affirmed the meaning of the 1919 law: " The legislative intent behind this [1919] statute is clear from its plain language: The various boards of county commissioners were to officially establish and record all roads necessary or important for the public use. The last sentence clearly states that no other roads were to be considered highways unless and until the respective board of county commissioners had lawfully established them as such." Emphasis in original. The Court stated further: "We hold that the 1919 statute effectively vacated the public status of any road, including those established pursuant to RS 2477, which were not recorded and established by the pertinent board of county commissioners."  Read the full text of the opinion.

On March 16, 2004, a federal judge in Wyoming cited the state Supreme Court ruling described above, finding that an RS 2477 claim involving the Erramouspe Road in Sublette County, Wyoming, is invalid. Read a newspaper account of the hearing and the decision.

2004: State House May Attempt to Repeal Protection for Public Lands. Unhappy with the State Supreme Court's interpretation of the 1919 law that limits counties' ability to claim trails and jeep tracks as "constructed highways," one state legislator has vowed to try to modify the 75-year-old law. Read the lead article in the November 23, 2004, Sublette Examiner. If adopted, such a bill could turn trails into real highways through some of Wyoming's - and the nation's -- crown jewels, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the Wind River Range, and the Red Desert.



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