The Latest: Utah loses Salt Creek road suit


Revised Statute 2477, passed in 1866, allowed settlers to build highways across public land. Western counties later exploited it to reopen and maintain abandoned routes, even in national parks and wilderness study areas ("The road to nowhere," HCN, 12/20/04). In 2004, Utah and San Juan County filed an R.S. 2477 suit to reopen the Salt Creek route in Canyonlands National Park to vehicles. Seven years later, a district court denied the claim. The state and county appealed. They spent more than $1 million fighting the case.

On April 25, Utah lost this major road-war skirmish when a federal appeals court upheld the denial. Legal experts say the decision raises the bar for R.S. 2477 claims: Use of Salt Creek by cattle ranchers, prospectors and tourists was not enough to establish the "continuous use" required for a public highway. However, the Utah attorney general's office intends to keep battling for local control over 14,000 other roads on public lands across 22 counties.

chuck dunn
chuck dunn says:
May 27, 2014 02:49 PM
Edward Cusick
Edward Cusick says:
May 27, 2014 03:35 PM
Mr Dunn. With all due respect you do realize that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) are Federal Statutes/Laws and were created by the "Federal Government" to protect the rights of disabled Americans.

Secondly I do not claim to know the specifics of what this decision entails but ADA compliance is only enforceable in specific circumstances. This may be of help.

Lastly honestly ask yourself where physically-challenged citizens of the State of Utah (or any state for that matter) may have found themselves if the Federal Government had not created these very important laws, if in fact, in 1973 or 1990 the State of Utah was "managing their own land" and just decided it wasn't in their best interests to require curb cuts or ADA compliant ramps or doorways or transit facilities?

Be careful what you wish for. It may be a bitter pill to swallow.
Valerie Heath-Harrison
Valerie Heath-Harrison says:
May 29, 2014 02:34 PM
Mr. Dunn. I know and work with accessibility laws and have done so for the last 20 years. If a person uses a motorized wheelchair, he or she cannot be kept from accessing this area or any wilderness trail as a wheelchair is considered the primary mode of locomotion, just like legs. There are wheelchairs specifically made for trails and sandy environments to enable people to access areas previously unavailable to them.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is not directly applicable to the Federal government (except for some provisions related to employment). The Federal government is subject to the provisions of the Architectural Barriers Act, as amended; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended; implementing regulations, and the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards for entities covered under the General Services Administration rules (Department of the Interior in this instance).

The updated ADA regulation (2010) addresses "other power-driven mobility devices" (e.g. Segways, golf cars, ATVs, scooters, etc.) and says that entities subject to the regulation need to evaluate each area and facility using identified assessment factors to determine whether or not these types of mobility devices can be allowed in any given area/facility. But, again, this is only applicable to State and local governments, not the Federal government or the lands under its jurisdiction.

For too many years, people have been using access for persons with disabilities as a smokescreen to hide behind when their real agenda is to increase access for people who ride off-road vehicles for fun.

Finally, if you think the State of Utah has the recreating public's best interests at heart in its bid to take over Federal public lands, I fear you are mistaken. Utah and its powerbrokers only care about maximizing the State's coffers and enriching each other's pocketbooks and spheres of influence. Should the State of Utah win its bid to these lands (highly doubtful), we can assume accelerated levels of privatization, development, and resource degradation. I fervently hope to never see the day.

I do not trust Utah State. I see how much money is wasted on frivolous lawsuits against the Federal government, and the time and resources wasted on passage of moral message legislation. However, they can hardly be bothered to care about the poor, disadvantaged, and disenfranchised. But that is another rant for another day.
Sara says:
May 31, 2014 09:48 AM
So did the Utah taxpayers get to foot the bill for that long drawn out case?