Commissioners are right about roads

Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 5:26 PM

The Journal editorial board’s opinions are not in the public’s interest. This is in reference to “Road Show” (July 31). There is so much misinformation and contradiction in your editorial that it is hard to get the facts out in one short reply.

Historical roads or RS 2477 roads are not federally managed routes as you state. Let’s start with the Forest Service and BLM’s own Travel Management Plan. Section 212.55 (d) of the final rule “requires responsible officials in making decisions to recognize valid existing rights including valid outstanding or reserved rights-of-way for a road or trail. The Agencies may not regulate uses within the scope of these rights-of-ways if the agency has not acquired the right to do so.”

They have not acquired the right to do so, yet have closed and decommissioned some of these historical roads in violation of their own rule as well as federal, state and county law. Are you familiar with Title 1, Section 108, that states, “No final rule or regulation of any agency of the Federal Government pertaining to the recognition, management, or validity of a right-of-way pursuant to Revised Statute 2477 (43 U.S.C. 932) shall take effect unless expressly authorized by an Act of Congress subsequent to the date of enactment of this Act”? Did you see those words, “May not regulate uses,” management, etc? This is the law.

Let’s look at the RS 2477 law, Title 43, U.S.C. 932, which states, “The right-of-way for the construction of highways over the lands not reserved for public uses is hereby granted.”

Those 17 roads the Montezuma Board of County Commissioners list/assert in their resolution predate the reservation of the San Juan National Forest on Dec. 6, 1905. The resolution includes the documentation of these routes on maps dating back to 1882.

Further, passage of the Federal Lands Policy & Management Act, (FLPMA) on Oct. 21, 1976 (which is codified in our Montezuma Land Management Plan as the guiding statute), specified that all existing roads and rights-of-way at the time be continued. The FLPMA states, “Nothing in the Act…shall have the effect of terminating any right-of-way or right-of-use heretofore issued, granted or permitted.”

Only Congress or the board of county commissioners have the legal authority to close any RS 2477 roads. If a federal agency or its employees close such a road, it is a violation of federal, state and county laws.

Colorado law from the time Colorado was a territory to current date ascertains that RS 2477 roads and trails are public highways. They are under the jurisdiction of the board of county commissioners in the county they exist in and the county commissioners are duty bound by law to keep them open to public travel.

Additionally, I refer you to 30-11-101, commissioners to exercise powers of county. It is the law not only providing but requiring the authority and action our commissioners have taken. The section ends stating; “But they are not clothed with the authority to barter away in perpetuity the rights and interests of the public.”

You need to retract your article and apologize to the Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners and the citizens for misleading them.

Our BOCC are doing their sworn duty. They are not letting the agencies bluff them or sitting idly by in their officialdom and watching the public’s rights fade away. They are challenging these closures based on existing law and findings of the courts.

My thanks to the Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners.

Dennis Atwater