This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The state of Utah has joined Garfield and Kane counties in new lawsuits seeking control of roads that cross federal lands in southern Utah.
Already arguing at trial for roads that Kane County considers priorities Bald Knoll and Hole in the Rock roads among them the county and state filed suit Nov. 10 seeking the rest of the disputed roads crossing lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Then on Monday, the state and Garfield County filed for control of 94 roads in that county, according to a news release from the Governor's Office.
"The BLM has completely ignored local and state requests for control of vital roads within the public lands," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement, "instead choosing to unilaterally close roads and restrict access enjoyed by Utahns for decades."
These are two more in a growing list of Utah lawsuits centered on the 1976 law that governs management of BLM lands. Counties may seek control of historic roads that can be proven to have been commonly open to the public before that time. The lawsuits to date have yielded mixed results, with federal judges granting local control of some major rights of way but denying it in routes in dispute, such as in dry creek beds.
The federal government and environmentalists have argued that some of the dirt roads are not vital to the public, having been created only for individual access in years past. Others, they argue, did not exist at all before 1976.
The lawsuits against the U.S. Department of the Interior have been opposed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Efforts to reach a SUWA attorney were unsuccessful.
The newest Kane County lawsuit seeks 710 road segments. Shawn Welch, an attorney representing the county, said some of those segments likely combine to form complete roads.