COLORADO CONGRESSMAN SEEKING TO BAR BLM'S ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE VALID EXISTING RIGHTS-OF-WAY (R.S. 2477)
Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) has announced he intends to offer an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill that would essentially preclude any Interior agency from recognizing any R.S. 2477 right-of-way. If adopted as law, such a provision would undermine years of negotiation between Western counties and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) addressing county ownership of some of the thousands of roads crossing public lands, commonly known as R.S. 2477 roads.
Federal agency treatment of R.S. 2477 has long been a controversial and heavily politicized issue. Under current policy, counties can seek Interior and BLM recognition of qualifying R.S. 2477 rights-of-way via a "Recordable Disclaimer" as well as a "non-binding determination." The Udall amendment would attempt to reverse existing policy, requiring counties or other claimants to initiate costly litigation to have the status of every route resolved through the courts.
The Udall amendment is supported by well-funded Wilderness activist groups, such as the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), who have promised through their lawyers to declare "trench warfare" against any county hoping to defend public rights of access along R.S. 2477 rights-of-way.
We are all concerned that the Udall amendment will stall evolution of a reasonable dialogue between federal, state and local governments and private interests on the status and management of R.S. 2477 routes. "By definition, many of these routes have been in existence for a century or more and provide access for all to our treasured public lands."
"The status of these roads requires creative solutions forged by collaborative dialogue, not a last-minute amendment to a catch-all spending bill or other heavy-handed edicts designed to stall progress or bankrupt rural western counties."
Another one to watch.