This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah's governor, legislators and some local officials seem determined to use taxpayers' money to fight losing battles over causes that are either indefensible or run counter to what Utahns themselves want.
The Legislature this year voted to fight the federal government in court in a futile attempt to wrest control of federal lands, including national parks and monuments. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar rightly called the legislation a political stunt. Taking over land that belongs not only to Utahns, but just as legitimately to all other Americans, if it were even remotely possible, would be a colossal mistake.
The outdoor treasures that bring millions to Utah to spend their money and support local businesses would be lost forever, sold off to the highest bidders who would strip them of their finite bounty and leave Utah poorer than ever.
At the same time, the leaders of the Utah Association of Counties and Gov. Gary Herbert's public lands adviser are planning to make claims in court to 25,000 routes on public lands throughout the state, most of which are not graded, maintained roads.
That action is not needed, as they say, to keep vital transportation open and businesses operating. The intent is to formalize the status of all kinds of trails and paths as roads to keep wilderness study areas open to future development and foreclose the possibility of more wilderness designations of lands valuable for their scenic beauty, cultural importance and allure for quiet recreation.
Only 2,000 of the 25,000 routes the state is claiming under the 1976 repeal of a Civil War-era mining law are classified as Class B roads.
The 19th century federal law RS2477 was intended to encourage mineral development by handing routes across public lands to local jurisdictions. That law was repealed in 1976 when Congress decided to retain most remaining public lands going forward and created a multiple-use mission for the Bureau of Land Management. Roads that predated 1976 were considered valid through a "grandfathering" provision. Courts have ruled that counties and states must claim roads through federal lands separately by proving continuous use prior to 1976.
Environmental groups and the outdoor recreation industry leader Black Diamond are contesting Utah's claims, saying many of the routes are the result of only recent use by all-terrain vehicles and others are merely wildlife trails.
Utahns want wilderness areas protected. Their money should not be used to pave the way for development.