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Court of Appeals reverses district court decision on R.S. 2477 legal proceedings, allowing SUWA to continue to intervene

In a March 4, 2024, decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit ruled to “reverse the district court’s denial of SUWA’s motion to intervene on the issue of scope, affirm on the issue of title and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.” This comes as the next step of the years-long legal battle over the R.S. 2477 roads, a conflict between Kane County and the federal Bureau of Land Management which has escalated to include the State of Utah and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA).

This decision by the three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a decision made previously by a local district court, which ruled SUWA would not be allowed to intervene as right on one of the current legal proceedings. Citing the precedent set by another ruling within the case, the court of appeals indicated precedent as showing SUWA’s legal right to continue to be involved. Part of the reason for the court’s previous decision was that SUWA’s interests were adequately represented by the party from the United States - the court of appeals reverses this decision, stating that while the interests are represented identically in title, SUWA is not adequately represented in scope. The precedent set allowed SUWA to participate in a previous part of the suit, which the court of appeals determined wasn’t materially different from the current suit, thus the precedent remains.

Kane County Commissioner Wade Heaton, who has been involved with this legal challenge for years, stated of the current ruling, “It was perhaps a little bit of a different decision than we would have liked … but we’re glad to have a decision at all. Kane County has been leading out since well over a decade ago on this ongoing roads battle, which directly impacts our ranchers, tour guides, ATV community, visitor economy and rights of the public to access their public lands. The courts have failed so far to establish consistency when it comes to roads decisions. We are heartened by Judge Kelly’s challenge calling for an en banc review.”

Heaton continues, “We’re glad [the case] is moving, we’ve been concerned that there was no movement on it all … This doesn’t decide the issue, this just decides SUWA’s involvement. We’re glad to have an answer on it so we can move forward.” Kane County’s stated priority is removing barriers so the case can continue to proceed.

This ruling, which is a matter of public record, is marked United States Court of Appeals tenth circuit case number 22-4087, and the full text of the court’s ruling can be found by searching that case number and indicator. Additionally, Kane County has provided a pdf of the document - email for a copy in order to read the entirety of the court’s summary and ruling.




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