Home : Features : Land Use : Victory for Kane County, Utah

Victory for Kane County, Utah

Yesterday morning USA-ALL received calls from Kane County Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw to share the good news with us. The U.S. Attorney filed a response in federal court to the county’s motion for summary judgement. The federal government agreed that Kane County should be granted clear title to almost all of the Skutumpah road in Kane County! This is, as far as we can tell, THE FIRST right of way acknowledged by the federal government on Department of Interior (DOI) managed land.

Source: Blue Ribbon CoalitionBLUERIBBON COALITION PARTNER ALERT!IMPORTANT VICTORY FOR KANE COUNTY

Dear BRC Action Alert Subscriber,

BRC just has received an email update from Mike Swenson, Executive Director of the Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL), regarding the great news just received out of Kane County.

I have pasted USA-ALL’s email below. Please take a couple of minutes to read it over!

Thanks,
Ric Foster
Public Lands Department Manager
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 107


Kane County Wins!

Dear Ric,

Yesterday morning USA-ALL received calls from Kane County Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw to share the good news with us. The U.S. Attorney filed a response in federal court to the county’s motion for summary judgement. The federal government agreed that Kane County should be granted clear title to almost all of the Skutumpah road in Kane County!

This is, as far as we can tell, THE FIRST right of way acknowledged by the federal government on Department of Interior (DOI) managed land.

It shows that when done properly rights of way can be adjudicated in a court of law. Kane County has also given other counties a template that may be followed to further pursue and hopefully resolve the argument over road ownership in counties all over the western U.S.

Last night at about 4:00 PM Kane county sent out the following press release:

Kane County wins its first R.S. 2477 roadSkutumpah road

********************************************************************************************

Kane County Commission

Douglas K. Heaton, Daniel W. Hulet, Mark W. Habbeshaw

Kanab, Utah76 North Main Kanab, Utah (435) 644-4901

On August 30, 2010, in a Kane County quiet title suit in the United States District Court, the United States acknowledged Kane County’s ownership and jurisdiction of approximately 26 miles of the 33 mile long Skutumpah road. The County will start signing, maintaining and repairing the road today.

The Skutumpah road is believed to be the first Utah R.S. 2477 highway with title confirmed in court, and may be the first R.S. 2477 road adjudicated on lands managed by the Department of the Interior (Interior).

Kane County Commissioners and Rep Noel on Skutumpah road Tuesday afternoon with a road grader to perform much needed road maintenance.

The State of Utah joined Kane County in the suit to quiet title to twelve roads, including the Skutumpah road. Several environmental groups were denied intervention in the case by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kane County will continue to press its case and expects to quiet title to the remaining roads, and the rest of the Skutumpah road, within the next few months.

R.S. 2477 public highway rights-of-way were granted to states and counties from 1866 to 1976 to facilitate the settlement of the West. The majority of roads crossing public lands were established under R.S. 2477 and our communities depend on the secure and continued existence of these roads. Although repealed by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, all established R.S. 2477 highways were grandfathered as valid existing rights.

In 1997, Secretary Bruce Babbitt directed Interior to ignore R..S. 2477 rights and created unnecessary controversy and conflict. Interior agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), have closed and restricted numerous county roads across the West claiming that R.S. 2477 rights must be “determined” before the agency will “respect them as valid existing rights,” and yet Interior has vigorously worked to avoid having any R.S. 2477 right-of-way recognized as valid.

For the last two years in court Interior denied that Kane County had any right to the Skutumpah Road, but it separately informed the public that

New Kane County road signs and road grader on the Skutumpah road

Kane County should maintain it. U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups recently advised U.S. attorneys that the federal government had placed Kane County in a “catch 22” and suggested that the attorneys coordinate with the county to resolve some of the roads in the county.

The failure of the BLM to maintain the Skutumpah road resulted in many public safety dangers along the road that warranted an expedited court hearing.

When pressed, the United States finally acknowledged Kane County’s ownership of the Skutumpah road. Although the full extent Kane County’s rights are yet to be defined in the litigation, the County now has the necessary jurisdiction to properly maintain, repair and manage the Skutumpah road as it historically has done.

Kane County is in the process of securing quiet title or formal recognition of all of its roads documented as R.S. 2477 roads.
******************************************************************************

Like we mentioned in the Take Back Utah rally this last Saturday. There is much hope for the future of access to public land. But it will require aggressive and persistent action. You and all citizens have to get involved in our events, calls for action, and by donating money. If we do these things we can support counties that take action and encourage others to do the same. We can also EFFECTIVELY fight and beat radical groups that are seeking to grab millions of acres from public access. USA-ALL has remained dedicated and heavily involved in stopping a 9.4 million acre wilderness bill in Utah that is still before Congress. We need your continued support to beat that.

USA-ALL expresses thanks to Kane County for their determination and dedication to protecting the public’s access to public land and fighting for public property rights. Kane County and it’s leaders have proven their methods are a viable solution to resolving road ownership disputes. We need all other Utah counties to be as responsible and aggressive as Kane County. What are your commissioners doing? We’ve taken one road back, now lets go get the rest!
Sincerely,

Michael Swenson
Utah Shared Access Alliance

About Rick Webster

Check Also

Will New Mexico’s Chile Canyon Trails Be Closed ?

The BLM team working on the Trackways National Monument near Las Cruces has released a …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *