SALT LAKE CITY — The ongoing saga over the state's and counties' claims to rural roads was kick- started Wednesday with Gov. Gary Herbert's office announcing it has intentions to seek quiet title to nearly 19,000 roads in 22 counties.
"We have worked closely with the counties to protect title on these roads and rights-of-way for a number of years, but the federal government’s inaction has forced us to litigate,” Herbert said. "We will continue to use every tool available to us, including negotiation and lawsuits, to quickly and permanently get title to our roads. We are intent to defend our rights, and this filing will force the federal government to respond.”
We have worked closely with the counties to protect title on these roads and rights-of-way for a number of years, but the federal government’s inaction has forced us to litigate.
–- Gov. Gary Herbert
Herbert's office on Wednesday completed filing a series of notices of intent to initiate the action — required by the U.S. Department of Interior as a precursor to a federal lawsuit.
Of the 18,784 roads included in the filing, 2,190 are Class B roads, and 16,594 are Class D roads — the designated classifications are based on travel or use.
The state had previously filed legal action related to claims or disputes involving 94 so-called RS2477 roads in Garfield County and 710 RS2477 roads or segments in Kane County.
The cases involve rights-of-way access granted by the federal government in 1866 for the development of transportation systems. Although the congressional act establishing those rights was later withdrawn in 1976 with a new federal land planning act, the access rights were supposed to stay intact.
A separate lawsuit involving disputed roadways in Kane County went to trial in federal court this summer. The issue in that pending case includes the scope of the rights-of-way involving five roads and claims to seven other roads.
At the conclusion of the trial, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ordered closing arguments to be filed as briefs. They are due Friday, followed by a Jan. 17 deadline for counterpoints.
Oral arguments will be heard Jan. 26.