State Challenges Federal Closure of Utah Roads

State Challenges Federal Closure of Utah Roads

Save Story

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The state has filed a lawsuit challenging the late 1980s closure of three roads on Bureau of Land Management property in western Utah's Juab County.

The roads, which were from 6.5 to 9 miles long, were closed because they extended into a designated wilderness study area, the BLM said.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Ed Ogilvie contends the roads met the criteria for public roads.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court marked the fifth complaint the state has filed against the Interior Department under Revised Statute 2477, an 1866 law that guaranteed public rights of way over federal land. The statute was repealed in 1976, but existing roads were grandfathered in.

The state is asking a court order allowing it to maintain the roads and in some areas widen roads to two lanes. It is also asking the court to allow added improvements to ditches, shoulders, culverts and road signs

BLM spokesman Don Banks said, "The closures have been in effect for 15 years, and were enacted through a very public land-use process.

"The closures were put in place to protect beautiful areas like Scott's Basin, which was purchased by the Nature Conservancy, then given to the BLM to be held in trust as part of a potentially larger Deep Creeks Wilderness Area," he said.

But state officials contend the roads -- the Granite Canyon Road, Tom's Creek Road and Trout Creek Road -- were used as long ago as the 1870s and had been maintained by the county.

"They were all evaluated and appear to be good candidate roads to select and file upon," Ogilvie said.

The law suit and the other road complaints are part of the state's Public Roads Over Public Lands Project, an effort to reclaim control of the state's backways. Ogilvie anticipates that more suits will be filed, even as the state pursues an agreement it signed with the Interior Department in 2003 to submit road claims to the BLM and work cooperatively with the agency to settle the disputes.

"We are not seeking broader use of federal lands. We are simply asking the federal government to recognize long-held rights and follow the law," says Lynn Stevens, Utah public lands coordinator.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance attorney Steve Bloch said, "These routes lead into the heart of the Deep Creek Mountains, into a wilderness study area. It's another distressing example of the state attempting to wield this repealed statute as a sword against wilderness protection."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast