For Immediate Release, May 19, 2008
Contact: Rob Mrowka, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 249-5821
Precedent-setting Decision, Federal Court Denies County's
Right to Build Roads Through National Monument
LAS VEGAS— U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell has ruled against claims by Kane County, Utah for county ownership of 39 roads in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This monumental decision is critical for the protection of federal public lands from excessive use by off-road vehicle recreationists, cattle operators, and miners. The decision set the stage for the protection of environmentally sensitive lands, imperiled species, and vulnerable archaeological resources.
“The Center for Biological Diversity applauds this ruling and the positive precedent it establishes,” said Rob Mrowka, conservation advocate for the Center. “It sets the stage to end abuses of our heritage lands and provides the federal land-management agencies with a firm basis for formulating wise stewardship decisions.”
Kane County had based its claims for ownership of the roads on an archaic provision of the Mining Act of 1866, know as Revised Statute 2477, which provided for “…the construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public uses....” In 1976 Congress repealed the old law, while providing for the continued use of legitimate highways. Unfortunately, dozens of western counties with a “sagebrush rebellion” state of mind abused the door left open by Congress, bulldozing countless trails and foot paths and then claiming them as legitimate RS 2477 roads. Significant damage to public natural resources occurred as a result.
Judge Campbell’s decision found that Kane County’s assertion for jurisdiction over the contested roads violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution; she ordered the county to remove its signs from the roads within 20 days. “By placing signs within the monument, the county has encouraged, sanctioned and facilitated public motor vehicle use of federal lands that the Bureau of Land Management officially closed to protect the Monument’s values,” Campbell wrote in her decision.