By Brian Maffly
July 31, 2014
“Utah is suing the federal government in 22 counties, demanding title to thousands of miles of routes across public lands.
But in a new move that could sharply narrow the disputes, federal lawyers and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are arguing the state waited decades too long to file its claims.
They disagree, however, on which legal deadline applies.
Asking a judge to dismiss Garfield County’s claims, federal attorneys point to a federal act. SUWA, attacking Tooele County’s claims, cites a state law in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in 3rd District Court in Tooele.
“Case law is thin in this area” said SUWA legal director Steve Bloch, “and we are hopeful this is a tool to challenge state’s wasteful spending and anti-wilderness agenda.”
State lawyers are still preparing a response to the federal filing and have yet to study the argument raised in the SUWA suit.
But Tony Rampton, the assistant Utah attorney general spearheading state litigation over the routes, believes the statute SUWA invokes may not be relevant.
The claims date back to a Civil War-era statute known as RS 2477, which once granted counties title to routes crossing public land. It was repealed with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, or FLPMA, in 1976.
To prevail on a particular route claim under the federal Quiet Title Act today, counties must document 10 years of continuous use prior to 1976.”