Utah Drops Highway Suit in Face of Earthjustice Pressure
But threat remains as state pursues thousands of RS2477 claims
Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9622
After three years, Utah is dropping a suit claiming highway routes over federal land in six counties — but it still has thousands of similar claims across the state, said Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski, who is seeking to intervene in many of those actions.
“We welcome Utah’s withdrawing this lawsuit, but huge threats remain,” Zukoski said. “From fragile streams in desert sandstone canyons to alpine tundra high in the mountains, the State of Utah is trying to put bulldozers through national parks and other lands that are now protected for all Americans to enjoy.”
The suit was part of a strategy to claim more than 10,000 rights-of-way under a Civil War-era law known as R.S. 2477. The abandoned routes are in remote areas of Beaver, Box Elder, Emery, Uintah, Washington, and Wayne Counties.
The state and some rural counties view R.S. 2477 as a way to wrest control of federal public lands away from federal land managers, arguing that these “highways” are immune from federal authority and regulation. The presence of such highways would also disqualify many of Utah’s most remote areas from wilderness consideration or other types of protection.
Many of the routes have been adopted by ATV and dirt bike riders, and have caused erosion and other environmental damage and, scars and led to looting of archaeological sites.
Earthjustice represents The Wilderness Society, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Sierra Club.
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