WRA Prevails in Utah Open Records Case
The state of Utah’s attempt to build roads across roadless areas on federal lands ran into a roadblock—WRA. In a precedent-setting case, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that Utah’s open records law gives the public the right to see the evidence the state is using to claim ownership of rights-of-way over federal lands. Utah has asserted that faint travel paths, wagon tracks, or even hiking trails on federal lands are actually established roadways that belong to the state.
Until the Supreme Court’s ruling, the state of Utah refused to allow the public to see the records that support its claims that the rightsof-way exist. WRA’s victory provides greater transparency for Utah’s citizens and an opportunity to protect special places, such as the canyons of the San Rafael Swell, the narrows of Muddy Creek, and the scenic area around Temple Mountain, that the state claims are crossed by public rights-of-way.
“The state wanted to keep secret the documents it intended to rely on to claim public rights-of-way on federal lands. The Supreme Court disagreed and now the public has full access to these documents so that we can have a real public debate about the state’s policy of constructing roads on federal lands,” said Joro Walker, the Utah-based WRA attorney who represented the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society in the lawsuit.
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