State, Nation Finalize RS-2477 Memorandum
Gov. Mike Leavitt has joined United States Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton to announce a process designed to resolve many of the RS-2477 road claims in Utah. The focus was to make a commitment to protect Utah's important scenic natural areas while securing the state's transportation infrastructure.
RS-2477 claims have been disputed for nearly 30 years, costing American taxpayers millions of dollars and creating uncertainty for local officials and federal land managers.
Formalized in a memorandum of understanding, the agreement includes no roads in national parks, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas or fish and wildlife refuges.
"This is a defining moment for rural Utah," commented Leavitt,. "This settlement secures the state's transportation system, honors the property rights of local governments and preserves Utah's important scenic landscapes."
At issue is the legal title to thousands of roads crossing federal land prior to 1976. Commonly referred to by the federal law granting rights of way, the roads were never fully documented.
The situation has resulted in confusion, litigation and divisiveness, costing millions of dollars in legal bills.
The memorandum creates an administrative process and framework to identify roads to be disclaimed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Utah's counties and the state will select roads to submit to the BLM. The public will have a right to review all applications.
The process does not eliminate existing rights, but empowers out-of-court resolution for roads meeting agreed criteria.
The agreement consists of seven touchstones. To be considered for the RS-2477 disclaimer process, roads must have:
Existed prior to 1976.
Be able to be traveled by cars and trucks.
Not be in a national park.
Not be in a wilderness area.
Not be in a wilderness study area.
Not be in a fish and wildlife refuse.
Not be expanded.
"The memorandum defines a path for resolving the vast majority of disputed claims," explained Leavitt. "This is a common sense, common ground solution that will preserve our national areas, but give counties the economic certainty they need."