Three closed roads are at the center of a lawsuit filed last week by the state of Utah and Juab County.
The civil complaint claims that the United States Bureau of Land Management violated federal law by recently barricading the roads from public use.
Utah and San Juan County maintain that the roads in question have been utilized by the public for more than 100 years.
"Congress set the parameters for what can be considered a public road and these roads meet those criteria in every way. These roads were closed without public input and contrary to law," indicate assistant Utah Attorney General Edward Ogilvie.
The lawsuit is part of the state's public roads over public lands project, explained the Utah Attorney General's Office.
The project is a joint effort among the governor's office, attorney general's office and Utah's counties to preserve state and local ownership and control of established roads crossing public lands.
Almost 70 percent of the land in Utah is owned by the U.S. government and numerous roads traverse federally managed public parcels.
"We are not seeking broader use of federal lands. We are simply asking the federal government to recognize long-held rights and follow the law," pointed out Lynn Stephens, Utah public lands coordinator.
Here is a brief description of the three roads in question:
Granite Canyon Road is 6.5 miles long and has been used by ranchers, sheepherders, prospectors and campers since the 1880s. The road has been regularly maintained and bulldozers began grading it in the 1950s.
Tom's Creek Road is nine miles long and has been used by homesteaders, ranchers, prospectors and recreational users since the 1870s. It had been maintained by shovels and picks since the 1930s and later by county road crews using heavy machinery.
Trout Creek Road is 6.7 miles long and has been used by campers, prospectors and county residents since the 1870s. Prior to 1976, bulldozers, heavy equipment and hand labor were used to maintain the road.
The lawsuit is asking the courts to recognize state and local rights under R.S. 2477, a law granting public access across public lands on roads established by 1976.
Without these roads, access to local recreation and irrigation will be hampered. Assistant Attorneys General Edward Ogilvie, Roger Fairbanks and Jaysen Oldroyd will be representing Utah in the lawsuit. Photos of the roads can be seen at http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/PrRel/praugust25.htm.