- Revised statute 2477
Revised Statute 2477 (known as "RS 2477") was enacted by the
United States Congressin 1866 to place a restriction on an 1851 law setting aside all existing trails and roads on federal lands as public, and any new roads or trails to be set aside as public as traveled at that instant.
The public is an ever-existing grantee capable of taking dedications for public use. Counties were required to record these roads and trails, but inaction by the counties does not lessen the public’s power. The 1866 law restricted the 1851 law from applying to Reserved lands.
It is a short law, and it's entire text is one sentence: "the right-of-way for the construction of highways across public lands not otherwise reserved for public purposes is hereby granted."
RS 2477 was repealed in 1976 under the
Federal Land Policy and Management Act(FLPMA). The repeal was subject to "valid existing rights", but since many RS 2477 road claims were never recorded, the "valid existing rights" were open to wide interpretation.
Land owners, environmental organizations, government organizations and recreational-use advocates have all come to widely varying interpretations of the law. These conflicts came to a head when Bill Clinton declared the Grand Staircase-Escalante, in Southern Utah, to be a National Monument. Several Utah counties have been fighting in court to assert RS2477 claims to roads that cross federal and private property (see [http://ca10.washburnlaw.edu/cases/2005/09/04-4071a.htm SUWA v BLM] ), including across the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Much of the federal land across which Revised Statute 2477 applied was eventually
homesteaded or otherwise patented, becoming private property. According to some, this did not relieve them of the road as the road or trail was made public as soon as it was constructed. Because states have tried to impose state laws over federal law, Revised Statute 2477 has created significant controversy and conflict between property rights advocates on one hand, and access advocates on the other.
As western lands become developed into residential subdivisions, recreationists and sportsmen are claiming access rights on public roads across private land and gated communities. Because public roads have not always been recorded by counties, it is possible a private landowner holds property with an unrecorded public right-of-way. At one extreme, private property activists claim that nobody has access rights without a recorded easement. At the other extreme, access activists claim that virtually all private land that used to be public can legally be traversed by the public. Because of the difference in interpretation, lawsuits are currently being fought across the west, and it has fallen to courts to determine which routes are public and which are not.
The law is murky, and courts have applyied both state laws and federal laws and federal land court rulings to resolve RS 2477 claims, creating difficulties in the western states property law. Recent examples of failed attempts at using RS 2477 to take private property for public use are Galli v. Idaho County(Case Number CV 36692, Second Judicial District of Idaho, 2006) and [http://www.rs2477roads.com/Ramey_v_Boslough_Aug27_2007.pdf Ramey v. Boslough] (Case Number 02-CV-582, Boulder County District Court, 20th Judicial District of Colorado, 2007).
* [http://www.rs2477roads.com/ Utah Association of Counties RS 2477 Rights-of-way Homepage]
* [http://suwa.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=work_rs2477 Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance RS2477 homepage]
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