What’s the solution to the problem of ‘Highway
Any solution should provide heightened
protection for our special places - National Parks, National
Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges, and wilderness lands.
Any solution should ensure that only true
‘highways’ that were truly ‘constructed’ be recognized as valid
rights-of-way under RS 2477.
And any solution should give the public an
opportunity to express their views on the impact of granting claims
that may cross important watersheds, wildlife habitat, or
One Federal Court Takes a Balanced Approach
A federal court in Utah upheld one set of reasonable standards
proposed by the Department of the Interior under Secretary Bruce
Babbitt. Read the District
Court’s opinion from 2001.
Read excerpts from the brief filed by the George W. Bush
administration arguing for some reasonable standards by which
right-or-way claims should be judged. Utah Counties have appealed the
decision, but the Tenth Circuit sent the case back as not yet ready
for appeal on June 27, 2003.
Read the Tenth Circuit
Read the Southern Utah
Wilderness Alliance's July 1, 2003, press release on the 10th
Circuit case, and a Deseret
News article from July 2, 2002, on the decision.
A Balanced Proposal from Congress
With your support, Rep Mark Udall may offer a 2007
Amendment to the Budget that will stop the funding of the R.S. 2477
On April 3, 2003, Rep. Udall proposed a solution that has
balanced reasonable standards, provides a heightened standard for
those seeking to validate claims in wildlands and protected areas like
National Parks, and would require proponents to assert all claims
within four years, thereby putting an end to interminable attempts to
undercut public lands protection. It provides balanced definitions of
"construction" and "highway," and provides for public comment on
proposed agency decisions on individual routes.
Learn more about Udall's proposal.
Read Rep. Mark Udall's
bill H.R. 1639, and his
statement upon introducing
Read Rep. Mark Udall's commentary in the Salt Lake Tribune on why
his bill is necessary.
July 28, 2003, editorial from the Rocky Mountain News endorsing
Mark Udall's bill has picked up the endorsement of
Costilla County, Colorado.
Read the County's August 15, 2003, letter. The Chair of the Board
of Supervisors of Pima County, Arizona has also
endorsed Udall's bill.
Conservation groups Colorado Wildlife Federation and
National Wildlife Federation announced their
support for the Udall
bill in an October 15 letter.
Read a November 12, 2003, op-ed from Tucson Congressman Raul Grijalva
endorsing the Udall bill.
Read an Earth Day 2004 essay
by Rep. Udall that discusses RS 2477 and energy policy.
January 23, 2005, editorial from the Grand Junction (Colo.)
Sentinel supporting Rep. Udall's bill.
Solution - The ‘Title V’ Process
Rather than pushing to use an arcane, archaic repealed law to
obtain rights-of-way for vehicle use, counties and states have another
way that ensures public involvement, oversight by the land management
agency, and a review of potential environmental impacts. Counties and
others may request what’s known as a
“Title V” permit for a right-of-way. The process is named after
Title V of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the law
that repealed R.S. 2477. See BLM’s 2005 regulations concerning Title V
While some argue that counties can gain more control
over a right-of-way using R.S. 2477, thousands of Title V permits for
highways have been approved with little fanfare over the last 25
years. And one of the most outspoken R.S. 2477 proponents - Garfield
County, Utah -quietly submitted
application for a Title V permit in December 2004, stating in its
application that “Recent conflicts regarding long standing County
rights of way will be eliminated with the issuance of a [Title V]
right of way to the County.
The Wrong Solution
On January 5, 2007 Congressman Steve Pearce of New Mexico
legislation that would virtually hand over control of parks and
wildernesses to states and counties. He proposed a similar bill in
2006. Read accounts in the
Los Angeles Times,
the Salt Lake Tribune,
and the Santa Fe New
Mexican related to the 2006 bill.