Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Utah Legislature Inspires Again

Here's a quick hit of inanity from our clueless state legislature. A bill just cleared a House committee that would allow Utah counties to spend up to 30% of road maintenance funds to fight RS2477 claims.

RS2477 claims are a fun bit of history. Back during the settlement of the west a person used to be able to make a road just about anywhere they wanted on public land. Usually these were practical roads that did useful things like connect towns, connect local farmers to the towns, and the like. In 1978 the law changed. You could no longer make roads wherever you like, but existing roads could remain if shown they were used continuously before 1978.

It has recently become fashionable for anti-government Utah officials to claim ever little hiking trail and deer path as a right of way under RS2477, thus making it essentially a road where a road never existed. This is particularly fun for off-road vehicle recreationists who find their existing choices of hundreds of miles of legitimate trails and roads in Utah too restricting and need to really stretch their legs into previously untouched pristine wilderness areas. There is not a little evidence that some of these roads were carved out post-1978.

Anyway, and this is getting longer than I expected it to, each claim under RS2477 has to be litigated separately in federal court and, as you can imagine, the cost starts to get incredibly high. I can't think of a better use of taxpayer money, then, during a recession where the economy is shedding jobs and the Utah state budget is being slashed in nearly every department including schools and teachers' wages, than on litigating the existence of rights of way that are unusable, speculative, and just a means of sticking to the feds. Well done.

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