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Letter to the Editor: it's about a right

By Alan J. Peterson


The Salt Lake Tribune recently (June 30) ran a balanced article on the RS 2477 dispute between the State of Utah and Emery County vs. the BLM.

However, they failed to mention some important facts concerning wilderness study areas (WSA) and how they came to be established.

First, many roads in question were ignored by BLM during the late 1970's and thus areas that should have been disqualified from consideration as WSA were instead accepted as WSA.

A perfect example of this would be the Eva Conover Road (ECR) which connects the town of Ferron to the highest points in the Swell. This road construction was funded by the state of Utah, named after Mrs. Conover who at the time was a state legislator representing Emery County. She was responsible for gaining the funding from state coffers and the road was to travel to a planned state park that was never built. The park would have been similar to Goblin Valley. The ECR was constructed by bulldozers with BLM operators in 1964.

Then in 1979, just 15 years later, the BLM described the bulldozed roadway as "significantly unnoticeable." They felt that it was "naturally re-vegetating" and therefore wasn't a road any more. So, the WSA was established and the road wasn't called a road, instead it was identified as a "pre-existing inventoried way." That's because a WSA can contain "ways", "trails", "mining tracks", "two tracks", "man made disturbances", etc. But, a WSA can not contain any "roads". So, the BLM just calls them anything but a "road" and presto, you have yourself a WSA.

Second, it may be true that Congress established the current WSAs, but it was only after the BLM submitted their faulty information to Congress. Now, only Congress can correct the errors that the BLM made.

As was pointed out in the article, RS 2477 was a federal law established a long time ago. Please remember that the definitions of the terms "highway" and "transportation" were significantly different in 1866 than they are today. So, when Ms. (Heidi) McIntosh, and other SUWA lawyers, dispute the definitions of those words, please keep in mind that RS 2477 granted the public a "right of way" to cross public lands. RS 2477 is all about a right; it is not about a highway. The condition of the road, or should we say a trail, way, mining track, two track, man made disturbance, etc. isn't the issue. The issue is that Congress granted a right of way. The road is a manifestation of that right which was granted. The condition of the road has nothing to do with whether or not the right was granted, the condition of the road simply measures how often the public has been exercising their right.

I would love to show everyone some of these roads, trails, or areas that are in question.

I admire Governor Huntsman for standing up for state rights, for county rights, and for my rights. That's what our government officials are supposed to do.

I am proud of the Emery County commissioners for taking a stand to protect their heritage, protect the future and protect their rights.

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