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Utah County Must Stop Illegal Seizure of Rights-Of-Way

Victory: Judge says Kane County violated Constitution by opening roads in national monument
May 21, 2008
Salt Lake City, UT —

After years of court battles, Kane County must halt its illegal efforts to create roadways through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and other wilderness areas, a federal judge has ruled.


In a major victory for Earthjustice and its clients, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ordered the county to take down its signs inviting vehicles into areas closed to protect sensitive streams, wildlife habitat, archeological treasures, and wilderness values.


"This is a great day for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon. The decision sends a strong signal to states and counties that they can't literally run roughshod over national parks and national monuments with dirt-bikes, ATVs, and other off-road vehicles," said Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski.


"It says that when national parks and national monument adopt measures to protect streams, wildlife, wilderness, and archeological wonders, it's trampling the United States Constitution for local governments to undermine those protections," Zukoski added.


The judge ruled that the county violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution when it adopted an ordinance that encouraged off-road and other vehicles to use routes that had been closed by federal land managers in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and in a designated wilderness area.


Kane County also violated the Constitution by posting dozens of route signs in the places monument managers had closed to vehicles to


Under long-standing precedent, the Supremacy Clause bars state and local governments from making laws that conflict with federal law.  It is not, however, commonly used in cases attempting to stop environmental damage.


Kane County argued that it could defy federal managers and the route limitations on federal land because of the repealed right-of-way law known as "R.S. 2477," which granted rights-of-way across federal lands. But Judge Campbell ruled that the county could not force federal managers to recognize the claims without establishing them in court.


"Kane County has used R.S. 2477 to bully the Monument managers for years. Now the county has to actually ante up with real evidence of their so-called roads, which they've never done. With this decision, federal agencies can finally get back to the work of protecting our national heritage," said Heidi McIntosh from Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  

Contacts

Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9622

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.