Rights-of-way rule discussed

Old federal rule governing roadways causes stir at counties conference

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A report about a 150-year-old federal rule governing roadways got mixed reactions at a meeting of Colorado county representatives last week.

The report on RS-2477 was presented at the conference for Colorado Counties Inc., to help the group determine its stance on the rule.

In 1866, Congress granted rights-of-way across public lands for the construction of highways so there would be access to mining deposits on federal land. That rule, RS-2477, was repealed in 1976 but preserved the rights-of-way the rule had established.

Today, uncertainty remains about whether certain rights-of-way have been established. Concerns surrounding the rule include that new roads could be built that cut through private land and that public roads that officially have not been acknowledged could disappear.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger serves on the CCI board of directors and also worked on the committee that drafted the report. He said one focus of the report was that federal legislation was needed to address RS-2477 concerns uniformly, Monger said. Not all county commissioners agreed.

"There's a lot of hesitancy out there from a lot of counties into allowing any type of federal discussion on this," Monger said. "(There's) the feeling of giving up some sort of power (counties) might perceive they have."

The CCI board of directors agreed to establish a committee of county commissioners to review issues related to RS-2477 because of the impact the rules could have on the state, Monger said.

One goal, Monger said, would be to find accurately defined roads to officially establish as rights-of-way. There could be several such roads in each region, Monger said, and officially establishing those roads could help the group come up with a policy to follow and use for other instances.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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