San Juan County, Utah, has filed suit against the federal government to win control of a route through Recapture Canyon near Blanding.
On November 27th, the county filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Utah seeking title to what it says is a county road across a portion of the canyon, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The county and BLM have long been at odds over the route, which the county maintains is a historic road under a statute called RS 2477. In the complaint, the county says the pathway was officially mapped by the Army in 1886. In 2007, the BLM closed the road to motorized travel because of concerns about damage to archaeological sites in the canyon. In 2014, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman led a motorized protest into parts of the canyon and was convicted of two misdemeanors in federal court. In 2016, the BLM released a plan that allows motorized access along the canyon rim but not along the bottom. But the county says the route is so old it predates BLM management and should be under county control. The county argues that, under RS 2477, it should have the right not just to the “beaten path,” but to a road at least 66 feet wide as well as any slopes, drainage runouts and fill areas necessary to maintain a safe travel surface.