Land / Road Closures

I copied this off of the Team Dual Dogs web site. It is critical information to any of you who are willing to take up the fight and not let our rights be trambled over. I know its long but it is a important law we need to use.


Clinton is using his presidential authority under the Antiquities Act without congressional approval to close most of our favorite trails in the Sequoia NF that we currently enjoy in our rides and spent years keeping groomed. It is extremely important for us to voice our concerns regarding this major closure and show there are far more of us enjoying the forest in this area than those in favor of the closure.

Sequoia trees are already protected and done so by a Republican president years ago. The new monuments planned are designed only to end OHV use. Period! A full one third of the Sequoia NF is scheduled to close.

For more information regarding the Roadless Initiative, visit the USDA website:

Please write or call:

Daniel Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture

Washington, D.C. 20250


Arthur Gaffrey, Sequoia NF Supervisor

900 West Grand Ave.

Porterville, CA 93257

Email: agaffrey/


Also write:

Email: roadless/

Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck

Email: Mike.Dombeck/

FAX: (202)205-1765 Phone: (202)205-1661

Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) Website:


VERY interesting letter

The battle that has developed over what some people are calling "trails"

in the western Mojave Desert was written up in the Feb. 23 issue of the

News Review. Since I have some mining interests in the local area and am

involved in scraps over the same general issues in Idaho, this article

caught my eye at once. It would appear useful to encourage the citizenry to

take a very long hard look at one every special aspect of roads (or trails).

In the western United States such issues are governed by a very

specific law that the land-management agencies wish we would all forget

about, and they try grandly to ignore until periodically tripped up in court.

The fundamental question is whether or not the federal land-managing

agencies have the right to close existing routes of travel, and that brings

us to what are called RS 2477 roads. These roads are despised by the BLM

and the USFS in particular, although quite frankly no land controlling

agency likes them for the simple reason that the presence of such routes of

travel means the agency cannot easily jam its planning down the public's throat.

What then is an RS 2477 road? Back in 1866, Congress enacted RS 2477, now

codified as Title 43 U.S. Code 932. This law applies to all public lands.

The law states: "The right-of-way for the construction of highways over

lands not reserved for public uses, is hereby granted." RS 2477 was in

effect for 110 years, until repealed by the passage of FLPMA in 1976.

However, and this is a very important however, the passage of FLPMA in

1976 specified that all existing roads and rights-of-way at that time be

continued. These roads and rights of way were not terminated. If you look

up FLPMA it says: "Nothing in the Act ... shall have the effect of

terminating any right-of-way or right-of-use heretofore issued, granted or

permitted." Now isn't that interesting. All of these old routes are still

valid, today, and only Congress has the authority to close any of them, not

the BLM, not the USFS or any other agency. Interesting! Indeed, if a

Federal agency or its employees close such a road, they would appear to

have violated Federal law.

As a matter of fact, closure of all the roads up into the east edge of the

Sierra, closure of roads out in the desert, plus closure of numerous roads

up in the tungsten- and gold-mining areas around Long Valley and Domeland,

would all appear to be illegal closures and I am amazed no one has

challenged these actions to date. (A point few people are aware of though,

is that USFS lands are generally not public lands and to be a valid RS 2477

road on the forest, the road had to exist before the date the USFS took the

land over.)

These matters have been fought in various courts. No doubt they will be

fought out again, for you will find the various agencies have all sorts of

in-house policies and legal opinions written by in-house lawyers to serve

their own agenda. But remember, a policy is simply an administrative wish

list - it is not the law. What the agencies generally do is challenge the

citizens and hope to wear them down.

Let us use a recent case in Utah where the BLM tried to get some counties

to give up their RS 2477 rights. The BLM lost. They are expected to try

again, and I sincerely hope, and expect, they will lose again. In this case

the judge stated that RS 2477 roads are: 1. "self-executing and became

effective when they were established;" 2. not required to have

"ratification from the Federal Government;" and 3. "preserved as they

existed in 1976." Point 2 is crucial. The BLM, the USFS and other agencies

do not have to ratify any of these roads. The agencies will claim you have

to prove all sorts of things, but trying to force you to do so would appear

to voilate the decisions of the court.

So then - let us take a local example. You have an old mining route,

dating from the late 1800s, that starts out south of Inyokern, wanders

across the desert to a spring near Laurel Mountain, then cuts up and west

to the skyline, drops down a canyon and on out a series of dry washes to the south.

This is an RS 2477 road and only Congress can close it. You may have

several closely parallel routes, each is an RS 2477 road. According to

various legal opinions and decisions I have seen, the BLM may want to close

these to pursue some in-house agenda, but they do not have the authority to do so.

This does not mean they won't blow smoke at you, try to baffle you with

important sounding opinions from their in-house lawyers. But the law is explicit.

If you elect to pursue the RS 2477 road matter, where do you start? You

gather all the court precedents and decisions, and there are many in the

western states, and you build an atlas of these roads. You use old mining

publications, old maps that show roads and routes, old advertising

brochures, diaries, maps in published books, old topo maps (which is one

reason I never throw away an old topo, or an old mine report.) As a matter

of fact, a lot of four-wheelers were using these old roads and making new

ones by the late '60s and early '70s.

As you pursue this matter you will also find the passage of FLPMA was

accompanied by a Legislative Intent letter that clearly spells out the

passage of FLPMA was to include the preservation of all existing RS 2477 roads.

Rep. Santini of Nevada wrote the letter and some 25 representatives signed

it, including those who were responsible for reviewing FLPMA.

To drive these points home even harder, in 1988 the U.S. 10th Circuit

Court of Appeals ruled that RS 2477 rights-of-way were still as valid, as

they were in 1976 when FLPMA was passed. This verifies once again that

these access routes are just as valid in the year 2000 as when established

by some miner, mule-packer or four-wheel club as long as it was prior to 1976.

It is up to the citizenry. You can let the agencies bluff you. You can sit

idly by with local officialdom and watch your rights fade away, or you can

become active and challenge these closures based on existing law and court

cases. You will find, of couse, a vast debate over what constitutes a road.

Stop and think what a road was when the law was passed. As defined recently

here in Idaho, a road includes even pack trails.

In any event, if it was traveled by wheeled vehicles of any type, even

just being two tracks in the sand, it is a road and is protected by law. I

know it because it takes 12 miles of 2477 road to reach my ranch and

several miles of another two-track RS 2477 road to reach the west side of

my place. These roads are real and you should not let them go without a fight.

As a final comment, do not get in the habit of calling these routes

trails. This is a perjorative term the agencies like because it sounds demeaning:

"Oh, it's just a trail - no one will miss it." Granted, in mining country

what are shown at times on maps as trails are actually access routes that

were built to take 18-wheelers, but stick with terms like access routes,

roads and rights-of-way.

You may find room for cooperation with the agencies, trading off truly

redundant roads for some post-FLPMA route you would like, but my advice is

give away nothing, absolutely nothing.

Carl F. Austin, Oakley, Idaho

Published in the March 22, 2000, edition of the News Review


In 1997, as part of the Interior Appropriations Bill, Congress passed

legislation that specifically forbids any Federal agency to develop a final

rule or regulation regarding RS 2477 Rights-of-Way.

Title 1, Sec. 108. 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".

A subsequent letter to James F. Hinchman, Acting Comptroller General

of the United States General Accounting Office, to request a GAO

interpretation of the permanence of the provision was signed by 30 Senators

and Congressmen. In response, the GAO indicated that although the

appropriations bill would expire, the RS 2477 provision language was

written in such a way that it became permanent law. After the GAO

interpretation, the US House of Representatives Committee on Resources

issued a press release on September 4, 1997 with the headline, "Comptroller

General Rules That Congressional Approval Is Required For RS 2477 Changes;

Action Bans Secretary Babbitt From Voiding Right-of-Ways".

To date, this is where the RS 2477 issue stands.

The actual documents are available on line at the US House of

Representatives Resources Committee web site as follows:

1) Congressional Letter to James F. Hinchman, Acting Comptroller General of

the United States General Accounting Office, 7/29/97

2) United States General Accounting Office response to Congressional Letter 8/20/97

3) US House Committee on Resources Press Release, 9/4/97, "Comptroller

General Rules That Congressional Approval Is Required For RS 2477 Changes;"

"Action Bans Secretary Babbitt From Voiding Right-of-Ways

This information is provided by Ron Schiller, Chairman, High Desert

Multiple Use Coalition. As usual, please feel free to pass this

information on to any other interested parties. Anyone wishing to receive

future information regarding issues related to the management of public

lands should send an e-mail to and request to be

placed on the distribution list.

Here is another interesting Article:


Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now