CURTIS WORKS TO SIDESTEP FEDERAL OVERREACH ON PUBLIC ROADS
Washington, D.C., November 17, 2023
Washington, D.C. — This week, Representative John Curtis (UT-03) introduced the Historic Roadways Protection Act. This legislation will prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from finalizing or implementing new travel management plans in the State of Utah until pending litigation over historic roads is complete. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
“Motorized access to Utah’s outdoors is critical for local economies and recreation opportunities,” said Rep. Curtis. “My legislation simply requires that we know all valid historic routes, which is critical to understand what areas can be accessed, before BLM makes further travel management planning decisions.”
"These roads aren't just pathways; they're a testament to Utah's rich history and the pioneers who shaped our state. It's crucial that we ensure their protection for future generations." — Senator Mike Lee
“Ride with Respect greatly appreciates the efforts of congressional representatives to conserve an ample supply and variety of high-quality recreation opportunities whether for motorized trail riding itself or simply accessing areas for the many other ways of enjoying public lands. We thank our congressional representatives for reminding the BLM that motorized access is vital to the mission of multiple use and sustained yield.” — Clif Koontz, Executive Director, Ride with Respect
“Protecting motorized access in the Labyrinth Rims Gemini Bridges Travel Management Area is important to thousands of motorized recreationists who visit Moab every year, the local economy, and businesses that manufacture, sell, and install parts needed to upgrade vehicles for OHV use. Off-roading is not only a passion for millions of Americans, but it is one of the largest drivers of the $6.1 billion (annual) outdoor recreation industry in Utah that employs over 67,000 people in the state. SEMA thanks Rep. Curtis for his advocacy to protect motorized recreational access on our nation’s public lands. The Historic Roadways Protection Act is critical to ensuring that OHV enthusiasts can continue to enjoy one of the most iconic landscapes in the world.” — Mike Spagnola, CEO, Specialty Equipment Market Association
“If the Bureau of Land Management is going to use their funding to shut down Utah’s public lands through restrictive management plans, then Congress should stop funding these plans. Representative Curtis’ support for the Historic Roadways Protection Act sends a strong signal that it is in the public interest to keep our public lands open for public use, and we hope this legislation finds strong support in Congress." — Ben Burr, Executive Director of BlueRibbon Coalition
“Dual-sport motorcycles which can be used on- and off-road for recreation have nearly doubled in sales since 2016, and Utah provides excellent opportunities for these riders to experience some of the most diverse terrain in the country. The Motorcycle Industry Council fully supports Congressman Curtis’s ‘Historic Roadways Protection Act’ which will ensure continued access to historically significant roads in the state and will pause attempts to limit public lands access.” — Erik Pritchard, President & CEO, Motorcycle Industry Council
“Moab and the entire state of Utah is a leading destination for recreational off-highway vehicles (sometimes referred to as side-by-sides), and the ‘Historic Roadways Protection Act’ will go a long way toward protecting access in the state. Congressman Curtis has long been a champion of responsible recreational access for motorized and non-motorized interests alike. This is yet one more way that he is protecting recreation and the massive jobs and revenue that are created in Utah.” — Scott Schloegel - SVP Government Relations, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association
“I want to thank Congressman Curtis for introducing the ‘Historic Roadways Protection Act’ which will temper the federal government’s attempt to close unpaved recreational roads that have long been used by ATV enthusiasts in Utah. Protecting states’ rights and public lands access for motorized recreation is of paramount concern to SVIA’s ATV riders who rely upon public lands for our responsible recreational use.” — Duane Taylor, Director, Safe and Responsible Use Programs, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America
Utah is home to some of the most vast landscapes in the United States. Much of the land is owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the authorization of the Federal Lands Policy Management Act (FLPMA). The BLM is required by FLPMA to develop, maintain, and revise resource management plans (RMPs) and the associated travel management plans (TMPs) periodically to ensure ongoing effective land management strategy.
In 2008, the BLM updated Utah’s RMPs, laying out the federal management strategy across the state for mineral development, recreation access, conservation, and resource use. Several groups challenged the 2008 RMPs over the BLM’s off-road vehicle use and other land-use practices. A settlement reached in 2017 required the BLM to revise thirteen travel management plans throughout Utah.
Revised Statute 2477 (R.S. 2477, Section 8 of the Mining Act of 1866) authorized the construction of roads across federal public lands to encourage Western settlement. Although this law was repealed in 1976, Section 701 of FLPMA preserved all R.S. 2477 rights-of-way (ROWs) for public use. 114 miles of the 317 miles of roads closed by the Labyrinth Canyon TMP are R.S. 2477 roads.
Twenty-two counties in Utah filed lawsuits claiming title to R.S. 2477 ROWs to ensure these roads stay open for public use and cannot be closed by new TMPs. However, there are over 12,500 ROW claims to process. The Federal District Court for Utah ordered the adjudication of 15 roads in Kane County in 2020 to set the precedent for the remaining cases, and the State is awaiting final decisions. Until the right-of-way status of thousands of miles of R.S. 2477 roads can be determined, the BLM should not be able to implement or revise travel management plans that close R.S. 2477 roads it may have no jurisdiction over.
For bill text, click HERE.