UTAH, FEDS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS REACH FIRST SETTLEMENT IN PUBLIC ROADS LAWSUITS
For Immediate Release
August 19, 2013
Utah and Juab County have reached the first settlement with the federal government and environmental groups granting the state and county ownership over three disputed roads in Juab County. U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell has been given a consent decree today that would restore public access to three roads—and for the first time opens access to a road closed due to a Wilderness Study Area boundary.
“Today’s agreement serves as a model for resolving road disputes going forward. We can find ways to agree, and I applaud the county and all stakeholders for proving this approach can work,” said Governor Gary R. Herbert. “My hope is that we will continue to work to resolve RS2477 disputes.”
The Utah Attorney General’s Office filed 22 lawsuits in 2012 over nearly 12,000 R.S. 2477 roads in 22 counties. The complaints are based on a law known as R.S. 2477. The law was repealed in 1976 but Congress grandfathered the states’ and counties’ rights-of-way to roads that already existed.
If signed by the judge, today’s consent decree restores public access to Granite Canyon Road and confirms existing access to Toms Creek and Trout Creek Roads in the Deep Creek Mountains near the western border of Juab County. The decree was signed by attorneys representing Utah, Juab County, U.S. Department of Interior, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club.
“This settlement is great first step and we hope this will serve as a template on how to resolve other public road lawsuits involving similar types of road claims,” said Attorney General John Swallow. “It also demonstrates that the state and counties will take preservation issues into account when resolving road claims.”
The settlement requires the federal government to unlock the gate on Granite Canyon and remove fallen trees and any other obstacles blocking access to Camp Ethel at the end of the Granite Canyon Road. The agreement also allows the state or county to repair the roads but preserves their primitive status. It prohibits paving, improvement, routine maintenance or widening the roads.
The agreement also provides for water quality monitoring in Granite Canyon to determine if access is harming water quality and to consider remedial measures should the monitoring show deterioration. The agreement also expanded a roadless area near the Deep Creeks but preserved claims to 12 roads still in litigation.
Motorized vehicles will only be allowed on the roads between June and November. The county has also agreed to put up signs and enforce laws prohibiting motor vehicles from being used outside the three roads including strict prohibitions against the use or creation of any new or non-specified ATV trails.
“These historic roads were once used to reach some beautiful camping areas and historic sites in our county, We appreciate the cooperation from all parties that resulted in this historic milestone” says Juab County Commission Chairman Chad Winn. “This agreement will mean Utahns can once again enjoy motorized access on limited, specified routes to access some of the really spectacular scenery in the Deep Creeks in Juab County.”
Assistant Attorneys General Harry Souvall and Roger Fairbanks represented Utah during the extensive negotiations. Three public hearings were held in Juab County, including two in the Snake Valley on the agreement. The date the roads will be opened has not been determined.