The RS2477 Threat

Lands at Risk

Threats to
Private Property



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About RS 2477  |  History  |  "Disclaimer Rule"


Background on RS 2477:
An Opportunistic Public Lands Grab

The outdated Revised Statute 2477 states simply, “The right-of-way for the construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public uses, is hereby granted.” In 1866, this statute was passed in part to permit highway construction to help commerce move from town to town over federally owned lands. In 1976, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) repealed the obsolete statute, but did not invalidate claims that could be shown to be established and valid prior to 1976.

In the 1980s, as federal land management agencies inventoried roadless lands to see if they qualified for wilderness protection, development and off-road advocates and anti-federal government extremists mobilized in opposition. County and state officials resurrected the old RS 2477 statute, arguing that it gave them unrestricted access to Western national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, and wilderness areas.

For an RS 2477 claim to be granted, those pressing the claim must show that a “highway” was “constructed” across U.S.-owned land either before the land was set aside for other uses or before 1976 (when the law was repealed). Unfortunately, in 1988, the Interior Department (under Jim Watt’s successor Secretary Donald Hodel) issued guidance that was intended to unleash a flood of bogus claims over federal lands, and it worked. Subsequent attempts by Secretary Bruce Babbitt to develop more balanced validity regulations were blocked by pro-development forces in Congress. As of January 2003, a policy put in place by former Secretary Babbitt in response to congressional action prevents the Interior Department from awarding most claims, but Secretary Norton announced that this policy would likely be reversed in early 2003.



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