Key Legal Documents From USA v. Garfield County (Utah), The Boulder-to-Bullfrog Road (Burr Trail Road) Litigation

Originally written and published by Garfield County in Utah.

Edited and republished by Kevin Allard with Arizona Backcountry Explorers.

NOTE: The Boulder-To-Bullfrog Road (commonly also called the Burr Trail Road) in Garfield County in southern Utah has been the focus of RS 2477 litigation for more than a decade. During that litigation, many very important legal precedents have been set. Virtually all of them reaffirm and further protect the bundle of rights which Congress conveyed directly through the grant it made directly under RS 2477. (A brief history of the legal activities related to this road is available on this site.)

In 1996, the Clinton Administration sued Garfield County over a minor and routine road improvement project it conducted on a section of road just inside the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park. (See photos that show how minor it really was. It is hard to tell the difference between the “before” and “after” photos.) It is clear that this is just an excuse for the Administration, which is philosophically hostile to RS 2477 rights-of-way, to attempt to limit and undermine these rights through the courts.

(For an interesting illustration of how outrageous the Clinton Administration is prepared to be in its assault on RS 2477 rights, not to mention fundamental concepts of common law and clear legal precedent, see the exchange between Federal District Judge Jenkins and a government attorney. Before a clearly incredulous judge, the government attorney claims that Garfield County does not even have the right under RS 2477 to run a water truck down the dirt road to control dust without permission from the Park Service!

Fortunately for the vast majority of Americans who cherish access to their public lands and who support the rule of law, the Clinton Administration chose as its target Garfield County, Utah. With a population of only around 4,000 and with 97% of its land controlled by the state and federal government, this little county has still spent over $700,000 over the past decade on litigation over the Boulder-to-Bullfrog road alone. The residents of this county are only a couple of generations removed from the tough and independent original pioneer settlers. They still live by the traditional western ideals of stubborn opposition to injustice and a willingness to stand up for what they believe in no matter the odds against them. In doggedly defending their rights on the Boulder-to-Bullfrog road, they are not just “talking the talk,” they also are “walking their talk.”

In the course of the most recent defense of their rights against the Clinton Administration, the attorneys for Garfield County have captured in their filings and other documents what is the “cutting edge” of legal thought in defense of RS 2477-related rights. Some of these are available on this site. They provide invaluable insight, not only for county attorneys who must also defend RS 2477 rights but for access protection activists and others.

In chronological order, they are:

7-30-96 “Memorandum of Authorities in Support of Motion to Dismiss”

10-11-96 “Reply to United States’ Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss”

11-1-96 “Defendant’s Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment”

11-1-96 “Memorandum in Support of Motion to Strike”

1-3-97 “Answer”

1-3-97 “Garfield County’s Counter-Claim”

1-31-97 “Memorandum of Points and Authorities Regarding the Law of Easements in Utah”

2-10-97 “Garfield County’s Memorandum of Points and Authorities Regarding the Rights of the Parities Concerning the Boulder-to-Bullfrog Road”

5-19-97 “Request for Clarification Regarding Maintenance of Status Quo on the Boulder-to-Bullfrog Park (Road) Within Capitol Reef National Park During Pendency of Action”

6-10-97 “Garfield County’s Opposition to NPCA’s Motion for Compliance With Local Rule


6-25-97 “Garfield County’s Motion for Reconsideration and Memorandum of Authorities in Support of Motion for Reconsideration”