Revised Statute 2477
Section 8, Congressional Mining Act of 1866, known as Revised Statute 2477 (RS 2477). And be it further enacted. “That the right of way for the construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public uses, is hereby granted.”
The original grant did not require being recorded, meaning it was self-enacting. It granted to counties and states a right-of-way across federal land when a highway was built according to state laws. Once established the RS 2477 route is under state and county control as a legal public highway which would mean that only a board of County Commissioners could vacate it, legally. RS 2477 was repealed on October 21, 1976 under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). The repeal was subject to “valid existing rights.” The relevant text (Sec. 701. 43 U.S.C. 1701) reads (a) “Nothing in this Act, or in any amendment made by this Act, shall be construed as terminating any valid lease, permit, patent, right-of-way, or other land use right or authorization existing on the date of approval of this Act”.
Federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) claim that based on case precedence they cannot make a determination regarding valid RS 2477 Rights of Way. This does not deter the BLM from ignoring obvious pre 1976 historical roads/routes on unreserved public lands, ultimately renaming the routes (Example: BLM Route B136 (zone = letter and # = route)) and closing many of the routes, generally 40-60% of all area historical motorized routes are closed (closed to motorized use by general public) with each BLM Travel Management Plan (TMP) across the Western United States. By closing the historical RS 2477 ROW’s the BLM is taking that jurisdiction from the state/county and making the route a de-facto federal enclave under the “exclusive” jurisdiction of the federal government.
The BLM closes thousands of miles of RS 2477 Granted ROW’s every year with no regard for the rule of law. Between 2014 and 2016 within just three Colorado TMP’s (Grand Junction, Colorado River Valley and Kremmling) the BLM closed over 4,000 miles of routes in Colorado, many were RS 2477 Grants that could be historically documented/mapped in 15 minutes using online references such as https://glorecords.blm.gov/ (historical federal gov’t surveys) or https://store.usgs.gov/map-locator (USGS Topo Maps) and/or www.arcgis.com › apps › Viewer (USGS Aerial Photos 1944 to 1979). In Colorado, these RS 2477 granted Rights of Way are defined by Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) CRS 43-1-202, CRS 43-2-201, and CRS 29-20-104 and the1993 Report to Congress on RS 2477.
Much of the RS 2477 information shared below was collected from 2013 to 2016 when the Grand Junction (CO) BLM office closed over 50% of historical motorized routes in the Grand Junction Travel Management District to the general public. This area is compromised mainly of Mesa and Garfield County Colorado. 97.2% of all federal lands in Colorado are held in a Proprietorial Interest Only by the federal government.
In December 2020 the Garfield County Commissioners (led by Commissioner John Martin) successfully reopened around 90,000 acres of BLM / public lands in Garfield and Mesa County by using federal law RS 2477 in Denver Federal Court to reopen a historic public highway.