RS 2477 -
An expansive ruling in an RS 2477 case in Colorado threatens property rights everywhere - Appeal pending before the 10th Circuit
The case of The High Lonesome Ranch, LLC v. Garfield County, Colorado is particularly significant because, if upheld, the legal reasoning presented by the judge would allow rampant government takings for roadways across private lands under RS 2477, adverse use, and other claims.
The case came about after Garfield County decided it wanted to increase easy, motorized access to public lands by forcing the opening of roads across private lands. While most of the area’s public lands are already accessible to the public by 4-wheeler, foot or horseback, this apparently was not enough to satisfy access proponents hoping to rev their engines across ever more terrain.
In December 2020, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado cobbled together RS 2477 and adverse use interpretations to rule in favor of the county. The ranch was ordered to open gates that had been locked for decades.
The ruling is contrary to previous state court rulings on these particular roads. This puts landowners across the West in an untenable position: previous state court rulings on whether a road across a property is private or public are not reliable. This should worry all property owners that the door to litigation on roads through your property is now wide open.
Western Landowners Alliance led an amicus brief to help the 10th Circuit understand the profound implications to land ownership, land management and wildlife.
Support the Alliance today to show your support for our efforts fighting this abuse of RS 2477, and help us work to reform federal law to stop RS 2477 from causing nightmares for landowners once and for all.
Road ruling could dead end property rights
From Volume 2 of On Land
A federal district judge’s interpretation of a controversial statute could open a pandora’s box of litigation over every footpath and service road on private property in the West.
What is RS2477 and why should you care?
Revised Statute (RS) 2477 is an arcane, one-sentence law, enacted by congress in 1866 that states, "the right-of-way for the construction of highways across public lands not otherwise reserved for public purposes is hereby granted." It was intended to allow for public construction of highways to speed settlement of the West. The law was repealed in 1976 under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). But it continues to rear its ugly head, as FLPMA only applied to "highways" constructed after 1976. The law has been used to force access through private lands and to disrupt federal land management for non-motorized uses. And now a Colorado court case threatens to throw the door wide open to frivolous RS 2477, adverse use and other claims across private land.