RURAL ROADS: Judge rules 12 rural routes in Utah will remain accessible to motorists

Federal government wanted to close land to the public; decision will likely be appealed

News Salt Lake Tribune March 22, 2013
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Anything historic should be put on public display. Thanks to a federal judge in Utah, 12 rural routes will remain accessible to motorists despite the federal government’s desire to shut them down.


Back in 1866, in an effort to encourage development, Congress allowed local jurisdictions to manage routes across public land. The law was repealed in 1976, but pre-existing claims were grandfathered in and considered valid as long as entities moved to claim them within a 12-year period. Kane County, Utah, followed the proper protocol.


“We’re confident the judge went through great pains to get it right,” Doug Heaton, chairman of the Kane County Commission, told the Salt Lake Tribune. Heaton also said the ruling vindicated the county in its fight to continue to travel historic thoroughfares. “We’re excited the court has ruled in our favor.”


According to Utah Attorney General John Swallow, the routes in question were not receiving the proper maintenance because the federal government refused to recognize them as state and county routes.


“It damaged the economy and put motorists at risk,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.


Four of the 12 routes are in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The decision is likely to be appealed, and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance attorney David Garbett said Utah was claiming ownership to “dirt trails, cow paths and roads to nowhere as highways.”

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