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County claims road RS2477

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May 04, 2003 11:53AM
Request for road to test new rule

TITLE: San Bernardino County will ask for Camp Rock Road, which crosses federal land in the desert.

04/30/2003
By SHARON McNARY
THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE

SAN BERNARDINO - San Bernardino County Supervisor Bill Postmus says getting ownership of Camp Rock Road from the federal government should be easy.

But a wilderness advocate warned that the county's action imperils sensitive desert lands.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ask for title to Camp Rock Road, a 42-mile gravel road that crosses federal land from Lucerne Valley to Daggett in the High Desert.

The request will test a new U.S. Department of Interior rule that environmentalists
fear could open rural dirt roads and trails in federal wilderness areas, preserves and national parks to vehicles.

"We as a county are leading the way for other counties and states to establish a
process to finally get legal title to rights of way on federal lands," Postmus said.
"It should be a slam dunk application."

Camp Rock Road was built by the county and has been maintained by the county as long as 70 years. It is used by area ranchers, miners and off-roaders heading to the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area.

In choosing Camp Rock Road, San Bernardino County is presenting a case that appears to meet federal criteria for granting ownership, Public Works Director Ken Miller said. For example, the road was constructed using mechanical means, and it existed before October 1976, when federal laws designating road rights of way became more restrictive.

Keith Hammond, spokesman for the California Wilderness Coalition, said San Bernardino County's use of Camp Rock Road to validate the rule will lead the county to push for vehicle access on more sensitive federal land.

"This is them putting a good face on the issue with their first test case, but when you look behind the curtain, there are thousands of miles of trails that are not roads at all," Hammond said.

San Bernardino County is the largest county geographically in the continental United States. About 47 percent of the county's 20,061 square miles are owned by the federal government and managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The county twice has asked the federal government to grant it ownership of about 5,000 miles of routes across federal land under the terms of a law called Revised Statute 2477. Congress, disputing what roads qualified under the law, told the Interior Department to stop processing ownership requests.

In February, the Department of the Interior published a new rule for resolving disputes over title to federal land, including road rights of way. The county's effort to get title to Camp Rock Road tests that new rule.

Riverside County has made a similar request for title to roads, but is not planning to pursue ownership of specific roads using the new rule, its transportation director, Ed Studor, has said.

Reach Sharon McNary at (909)806-3062 or smcnary@pe.com

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County claims road RS2477

katrina island 857May 04, 2003 11:53AM



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