CCI to help with federal road rule

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Colorado Counties Inc. has been invited to help draft legislation addressing a controversial 150-year-old federal rule about roads on public land.

In response to concerns that the R.S. 2477 rule, which grants "the right of way for construction of highways over public lands not reserved for public uses," Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., tried and failed to pass a bill through Congress last year.

That bill is being used as a jumping-off point for similar legislation that could be introduced in the 109th Congress, Udall spokesman Lawrence Pacheco said.

CCI has been asked to help Udall work on the proposed legislation.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who is chairman of the CCI committee on R.S. 2477, said CCI is happy to be a part of the process. Monger and the rest of the committee will meet with Udall's staff today in Grand Junction to discuss the potential legislation.

"We're really pleased to be able to be at the table and helping Congressman Udall," Monger said.

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 That rule, RS-2477, was repealed in 1976, but the rights-of-way it established were preserved.

That has caused confusion about what rights-of-way can be claimed and by whom.

Moffat County already has claimed various rights-of-way. The Routt County Board of Commissioners has agreed that it does not want to file claims yet.

CCI passed a position statement on R.S. 2477 in August that highlighted the need for federal policies standardizing how to deal with right-of-way claims and suggested details for the process of establishing rights-of-way.

Monger said that Udall's draft bill addresses many of CCI's concerns, though the group would like to see additional changes. For instance, he said, the draft bill does not address all potential rights-of-way, such as those on waterways or those accessible only by bike or horseback.

It also is important to limit how rights-of-way are used in the future, for instance, that a right of way with low impact uses wouldn't become a highway.

"It's a work in process," Monger said about the draft bill.

When a final legislation is proposed, CCI can "climb on board and support the bill moving forward," Monger said, or it can decide not to back the legislation.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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