The RS2477 Threat

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About RS 2477  |  History  |  "Disclaimer Rule"


The “Disclaimer” Rule Ups the Ante

The current administration is pushing hard to ease the approval process for phantom RS 2477 claims. On January 6, 2003, Interior Secretary Norton issued new “disclaimer regulations” to try to make it easier for the Federal government to grant bogus RS 2477 claims.

The Interior Department has said now, for the first time, that the disclaimer process can be used by states, counties, and even individuals to obtain rights-of-way under the repealed RS 2477 law. The states of Alaska and Utah, as well as anti-conservation counties, have tens of thousands of unsupported right-of-way claims that they are ready to put forward.

The new rule allows states, counties, and local governments to obtain such disclaimers, even when they aren’t recorded as owners of any land at issue. The new rule also permits states and local governments to ignore a statute-of-limitations requirement that applies to all other property owners. In addition, the new rule puts the Bureau of Land Management in charge of approving RS 2477 claims on land within national parks and wildlife refuges, even over the objections of the National Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Equally troubling is that the rule was put into effect before the U.S. Department of the Interior published the standards that it will use to judge the validity of these claims and refused the American public the opportunity to comment on those standards before they were finalized.

Learn More:


Read the disclaimer rule amendments and the Interior Department's none-too-convincing allegations as to why the rule has nothing to do with RS 2477.

And for more information, read Press Releases, and Questions and Answers about the Disclaimer Rule.

Read one BLM staffer's 2003 analysis in which he concluded it would be illegal for the BLM to disclaim an interest in RS 2477 rights-of-way.



California's US Senators asked in a letter to Secretary Norton not to implement the Disclaimer Rule for RS 2477 claims. Read their March 6, 2003, press release on the letter.

Read an April 16, 2003 letter from 87 members of Congress criticizing the use of the disclaimer rule to grant bogus right-of-way claims, the very mechanism the Utah-Interior agreement proposes to use.

Read an April 21, 2003 letter from US Senator Jeff Bingaman questioning the legality of the Utah agreement and the 'disclaimer rule' on which it is based.

Read a May 16, 2003 letter from California Secretary of Resources Mary Nichols requesting that Secretary Norton "not process any disclaimers involving RS 2477 right-of-way claims in California" based on threatened "significant and unacceptable impacts on federally protected lands in California."

On July 2, 2003, Senator Joseph Lieberman challenged Interior Secretary Norton to answer a number of questions on the impact of the Disclaimer Rule as well as other aspects of the administration's secretive RS 2477 policy. Read Senator Lieberman's press release and his 20-page letter to the Interior Secretary.

NEW! Read an analysis of the Interior Department's response to Senator Lieberman's July 2 letter that shows just how evasive, non-responsive, and recalcitrant an agency can be.

A bi-partisan duo of Congressional members (John Dingell, D-MI and Curt Weldon, R-PA) who serve on the U.S. Migratory Bird Commission wrote a letter to Secretary Norton on July 14, 2003 criticizing the Disclaimer Rule for giving the Bureau of Land Management the final word on whether claims across National Wildlife Refuges will be granted - effectively giving management control of the Refuge System to BLM.

One hundred four members of the House of Representatives have called on House conferees to the Interior Appropriations conference committee to retain language that would bar funding for use of the disclaimer rule within national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and wilderness study areas. Read the letter, and read the list of supporting representatives.


After voting in July to bar funding for use of the Disclaimer Rule to approve highway construction through national parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, wilderness and wilderness study areas, the House of Representatives reversed itself in late October, leaving the way open for the Interior Department to approve such highway proposals. Read articles in the Denver Post and Salt Lake Tribune on the backtracking. Conservationists panned the backpedaling by the House. See October 28, 2003 press releases from Earthjustice and from a consortium of other groups.

Scientists Oppose Disclaimer Rule

Read a July 15, 2003 letter from the Ecological Society of America--a 7,600-member organization of scientists studying ecology - expressing concern about the ecological impacts of speeding the give-away of RS 2477 claims.

Editorial Boards Oppose the Disclaimer Rule

Newspaper editorial boards across the country have written in opposition to the disclaimer rule, including:


UTAH. In April 2003, the State of Utah signed an agreement with the Department of Interior to ease the giveaway of routes over public lands through the disclaimer rule. Read about the "Memorandum of Understanding" and the firestorm it provoked.  But two years on, the state has made little progress in using the rule to achieve its ends. They've run into some speed bumps -- inconvenient facts that suggest the claimed routes are not county rights-of-way.

ACROSS THE WEST. Undeterred by the slow pace of progress in Utah, the BLM in July 2005 moved to permit any state or county to obtain its own Utah-style agreement. Read the BLM's July 2005 instruction memo and guidance, and a fact sheet debunking the guidance. Conservation groups raised a host of concerns with the guidance as it relates to the protection of wildlands in California. Read their August 23, 2005, letter, and BLM's response, indicating that BLM staff in California have a few questions of their own about the guidance.


Another reason the Bush administration pushed the Disclaimer Rule was to ease the process for handing over control of potentially thousands of riverbeds and lake beds to the State of Alaska. Such give-aways could result in mining, drilling, or other development in sensitive environments. The Interior Department has already started the ball rolling, giving away riverbeds inside the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. In August 2004, the Bureau of Land Management set up a process for easing the give-away. Read the agency's "Instruction Memo."


Take Action

To urge your Senators and member of Congress to oppose the use of the Disclaimer Rule to help bulldoze America’s precious lands, take action now.



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