Opinion rejects federal efforts to paint State’s claims as untimely;
case headed to federal district court for resolution of claims.
SALT LAKE CITY July 27, 2017 – In an opinion filed on July 26, the Utah Supreme Court agreed with the State of Utah and some of its Counties in their dispute against the federal government about the State’s ownership of historic roads across federal land. As federal law allows, the State and its Counties sued the United States to obtain title to more than 10,000 such roads—roads still used today for recreation, ranching, sightseeing, hunting, and fishing, among other things. But the United States, joined by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, argued that the State’s and Counties’ title claims were untimely based on a provision of Utah law that never had been applied to such claims.
The Utah Supreme Court’s opinion rejects the federal government’s efforts to paint the State’s claims as untimely under Utah law. According to the Court, the United States’ and SUWA’s arguments “would effectively deprive the State of its” claims to thousands of roads—even roads that have existed and been used for more than 100 years. The Court called that result “completely nonsensical” and “so overwhelmingly absurd that no rational legislator could ever be deemed to have supported” it.
“I applaud the Utah Supreme Court’s common-sense decision in this important case,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “The Court correctly recognized the absurdity of the federal government’s arguments, which have now added two years of delay and taxpayer expense to the State’s efforts to obtain the title to roads that federal law has long promised. I hope the Court’s decision convinces the United States now to work collaboratively and quickly with Utah and its Counties to resolve these title claims.”
The Utah Supreme Court’s opinion is styled Garfield County v. United States of America, 2017 UT 41. The case will now go to Utah’s federal district court for resolution of the State’s and Counties’ title claims.
Read the opinion here.
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