BLM unsure what to make of county's R.S. 2477 claims

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The Bureau of Land Management isn't sure what to do with Moffat County's right-of-way claims.

Staff members at the Little Snake Field Office agree that the BLM can recognize that Moffat County has claimed rights-of-way across public land.

But they need to check with their attorneys before saying whe-th-er those claims are valid.

"The rights are there, but is this claim valid? We can't say if the claim is valid," BLM minerals expert Jerry Strahan said at a meeting between the BLM and Moffat County commissioners Mon-day.

The commissioners have claimed about 2,000 miles of roads across public land managed by the BLM, National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. They base their claims on a Civil War-ear law, Revised Statute 2477, that grants public access on constructed highways across unreserved public land.

The Little Snake Field Office is in the midst of revising the resource management plan for its area. The commissioners are concerned that BLM land-management decisions will invalidate some of the county's road claims.

The county has hired an attorney, Constance Brooks, of C. E. Brooks & Associates in Denver, to write a legal opinion about why the BLM should recognize the county's R. S. 2477 claims.

It is Brooks' opinion that the BLM will forward to their lawyers for a response.

The county has claimed four types of rights-of-way: county roads, Jeep trails, off-highway vehicle trails, and nonmotorized trails. The county's R.S. 2477 policy stipulates that the county won't change the character of these road claims.

"I'll be willing to bet (that) if we got down to specific designations, there's not too many we'll be in conflict on," Commissioner Darryl Steele said.

But the BLM could designate an area that the county claims is a Jeep trail as nonmotorized.

Currently, no federally appr-oved process exists for validating R.S. 2477 claims.

But, Little Snake Field Office Director John Husband said, when a process is set, the BLM's land-management designations would not invalidate the county's claims if the courts ruled a road invalid.

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