SUWA was watching this case to see what way it would go. As you can read below, it went the way they wanted, and took away the right of the county to claim the road/trail was a county road.
This could be a precident they were looking for.
So, now some of the trails that we use, and the FS or BLM wants to close as part of their route designations, may not be able to get classified as roads for the counties they reside in.
RS 2477 is a touchy issue yet, and I am sure we will see more on this one.
Court Dismisses County Suit Claiming “Roads” Ignored by Land Managers
On June 29, in a ruling with broad implications for federal public lands, U.S. District Court Judge Bruce Jenkins threw out a lawsuit by two southern Utah counties claiming that managers of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument disregarded so-called R.S. 2477 “highway rights-of-way.” SUWA and The Wilderness Society intervened in the case, and joined federal attorneys in asking the court to dismiss the suit.
The suit sought to stop implementation of the Monument’s 1999 management plan, which protects the fragile natural resources of the area by carefully limiting travel to a 1,000 mile network of roads. ORV use on these routes was banned. The plaintiffs, Kane and Garfield Counties, say right-of-way claims under a now-repealed statute known as R.S. 2477 defines dirt trails, dry stream beds and faint tracks as highways.
Judge Jenkins ruled that the counties could not require the BLM to base its management plan on R.S. 2477 claims until the counties establish the validity of those claims in federal court. Because the counties have failed so far to do so, the judge reasoned that the suit was premature. Judge Jenkins also ruled that the counties could not require the BLM to decide whether their R.S. 2477 claims were valid before the BLM completes its management plans.
SUWA's Heidi McIntosh summarizes it this way: “The court’s ruling reaffirms that counties may not undermine the protection of unique and scenic public lands like national monuments by simply uttering the “magical” phrase ‘R.S. 2477.’ And it should put some steel in the spine of the BLM, which has too often allowed the counties who do so to get away with it.”
This ruling also has promising implications for other landscapes worthy of protection. The court’s ruling should apply to lands managed by the BLM across the west, and affirms that counties have to prove valid rights-of-way first, before bulldozing or staking road signs. This will bolster efforts to protect areas proposed for wilderness designation, as well as National Parks and Wildlife Refuges from trumped-up RS 2477 road claims.