The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit will not rehear a case involving San Juan County, Utah, and Salt Creek in Canyonlands National Park.
On Sept. 8, the court rejected a petition from the county and the state of Utah to rehear “en banc” (before the full court) the April 25 decision of a three-judge panel in the Salt Creek case. That decision had upheld a district court’s ruling denying San Juan County’s claim of an historic “RS 2477” roadway along the creek through the national park. The county had sought to reopen the 12-mile road, which leads to a scenic formation called Angel Arch, and had claimed jurisdiction over the route under the RS 2477 statute, which dates from 1866. The National Park Service had said vehicle use along the creek had been damaging the water and the riparian area, and had closed the road to vehicular traffic in 1998.
Under Utah law, in order to prove an RS 2477 claim, the claimant must show that a road was used continuously for at least 10 years prior to the “reservation” of the public lands it crosses. In the case of Salt Creek, the county needed to show that the road had been used continuously for 10 years prior to the establishment of the national park in 1964. However, the district court ruled that in the 1950s, a visit to Angel Arch was “an experience marked by pristine solitude” and that the state and county had not proven their case that the route was used continuously at that time.
The only avenue of appeal for the county at this point is to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.