Author Topic: Utah Loses Case for Road in Canyonlands National Park  (Read 938 times)

Offline Peter Vahry

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Utah Loses Case for Road in Canyonlands National Park
« on: May 03, 2014, 04:52:45 am »

DENVER, Colorado, May 2, 2014 (ENS) – The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a long-awaited decision rejecting arguments by San Juan County and the State of Utah that Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park is a state highway.

The state and county relied on an 1866 law commonly known as Revised Statute 2477 to argue that occasional travel in Salt Creek Canyon by jeeps had created a public highway.
Angel Arch

Angel Arch, Canyonlands National Park, 1972 (Photo courtesy U.S. National Archives)

RS2477 states simply, “[T]he right of way for the construction of highways over public lands not reserved for public uses, is hereby granted.”

The state and county argued that without vehicle access to a feature of the park known as Angle Arch, people would have to walk nine miles to see it, making it inaccessible to people without the physical ability to make such a hike.

The appellate court rejected these claims and affirmed the district court’s findings that this was not the case.

The ruling states, “The state and county failed to carry their burden of establsihing ten years of continuous public use of the Salt Creek Road as a public thoroughfare prior to reservation of Canyonlands National Park in 1964.”

Steve Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, SUWA, which filed a friend of the court brief in this case is pleased with the decision because he view Salt Creek Canyon as “one of the crown jewels of Canyonlands National Park.”

And he says this decision will have important implications beyond Salt Creek.

“The State of Utah and its counties are pursuing more than 20 similar cases asserting that approximately 36,000 miles of dirt trails and cowpaths are state highways. SUWA and several of our conservation partners have successfully intervened in these cases and are working to defeat the state’s claims that threaten proposed wilderness areas, national parks, national monuments and national recreation areas, and other sensitive and important landscapes.”

SUWA, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been working to protect Salt Creek Canyon because it contains the only perennial stream in the park besides the Green and Colorado rivers.

It is also the location of the Salt Creek National Register Archaeological District, the area with the highest recorded density of archaeological sites in the park.

Bloch said, “The threat that motorized vehicles posed to these irreplaceable resources is well documented and resulted in the National Park Service’s decision to close the canyon to such use.”

Auckland Four Wheel Drive Club Inc, 4x4 Challenges NZ Inc, NZFWDA life member, Friends of 42 Traverse Inc.