Western Property Owners Beware: Right to Build Roads on Government
Property in Jeopardy!
July 17, 2003
Defenders of Property Rights has learned that on Thursday, July 17th,
the U.S. Congress is set to vote on an amendment attached to the new
Department of Interior appropriations bill that will affect thousands
of homeowners, ranchers, farmers, businesses, and outdoor enthusiasts
in Utah and other Western States.
Colorado Democratic Congressman, Mark Udall, plans to offer an amendment
to the U.S. House Department of Interior Appropriations Bill that
blocks states, local communities, and individuals from their legal
title right to build and maintain a road on federally owned land.
The amendment is sought after Interior Secretary Gale Norton issued
in January of 2003, a regulation allowing the federal government to
abandon the legal title to rights of way claimed by counties under
the former mining access law known as R.S. 2477. R.S. 2477 was a pre-Civil
War law that allowed individuals, states, and counties to build roads
on federally owned land. The law was phased out in 1976 but it still
allowed individuals, states and counties to build roads if they held
their titles before 1976.
A leading environmental group known as Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
(SUWA) has lobbied Congress over the past few weeks urging members
to pass Rep. Udall's amendment thus destroying these historic property
rights. SUWA has also been very active in the courts trying to block
Secretary Norton's regulation, which was issued in January 2003.
Defenders strongly believes these historic roads that have been relied
on by landowners and local communities must be preserved.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, "The Senate has already passed
its version of the Interior spending report, and the two versions
of the department's 2004 appropriations will be resolved in a joint
conference committee. If the Udall amendment gains wide support from
the GOP majority in the House, its chances of surviving in the final
conference report are considered good."
Time for debate on this particular issue is running short. We disagree
strongly with Rep. Udall and believe that private property owners
stand to be severely harmed if his amendment were to pass. If you
also disagree with Rep. Udall please contact his office at 202-225-2161
by telephone and tell him why. You can also contact your local representative
to discuss this amendment by calling the U.S. Capitol switchboard
at 202-224-3121 or log on to http://www.house.gov
to find out additional contact information.
To find out more about R.S. 2477 please visit our website at http://www.yourpropertyrights.org
Brian J. Rogers
Director of Policy and Development
Defenders of Property Rights
1350 Connecticut Ave., NW Ste. 410
Washington, DC 20036