Commissioners unaware of R.S. 2477 legal effort

Officials plan executive session to discuss issue

Moffat County commissioners say they were not aware of a contracted attorney's efforts to use a Civil War--era right-of-way law to defend the county's claims to a contested road in Greystone.

Revised Statute 2477, approved by Congress in 1866, provides for public access across highways on unreserved public lands before 1976, when the law was repealed.

The county adopted an R.S. 2477 policy in 2003 that claimed 2,000 miles of roads across federal lands.

But county policy stipulates that the county will not assert R.S. 2477 claims on private land unless the landowner desires the county to do so.

The policy conflicts with the attorney's complaints on behalf of the county against James and Katherine Bassett.

County officials said that a .47-mile stretch of road across the Bassett's land is a county road numbered 60A. The Bassetts said it is their private property.

The attorney, R. A. Santarelli of Almont, had not been in touch with the commissioners recently, in an effort to maintain attorney-client confidentiality, Commissioner Darryl Steele said.

He was concerned about confidentiality because former commissioners Marianna Raftopoulos and Les Hampton were leaving office.

The commissioners did not discuss the road issue during their meeting Tuesday.

At an upcoming meeting, they plan to hold an executive session to get legal advice, during which time new commissioners Saed Tayyara and Tom Gray will be updated about the issue.

After that, the commissioners will choose a course of action, Steele said.

It becoming more common for counties to assert R.S. 2477 rights across private land, said A.J. Chamberlin, a Boulder resident and member of Property Owners For Sensible Roads Policy.

She encouraged property owners to educate themselves about their land by researching routes that may have crossed their land before it was patented.

If landowners can prove a route wasn't created until after the land was patented, then they are in the clear, she said.

R.S. 2477 routes have been asserted across private property in Teller and Boulder counties in Colorado.

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