November 5, 2006


San Bernardino County is suing the United States Department of Interior in an effort to preserve the public’s access to roads in the Mojave National Preserve. The County, at the request of Chairman Postmus, filed suit October 26 in Riverside Federal Court against the National Park Service for quiet title claim to the primary County Maintained Road System in the Mojave National Preserve.

Under the auspices of the Desert Protection Act of 1994, which established the Preserve, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service and other federal agencies under the Department of the Interior have closed roads that are part of the County's Highway System across federal lands and have otherwise interfered with the actions of the County in conjunction with the regulation, operation and management of these highways.

Several attempts by the County to resolve issues of rights of way and jurisdiction with federal officials and agencies have failed. The resulting suit seeks to ensure the County’s right to conduct maintenance activities within rights of way, including making improvements and accommodating drainage ditches, shoulders, culverts and road signs.

The Park Service had suggested that the County turn over its maintained road system in the Preserve to the Park Service and waive its responsibility for the roads. The suggestion was made with the idea that federal money would be available to give the Service an ability to maintain the roads. However, Chairman Postmus felt it was more important to preserve the public’s right to use these roads by insisting that the County own the roads. “The County is accountable to the residents of the Preserve and is in a better position to be responsive to their concerns, including concerns over the possibility of arbitrary road closures,” Postmus said.

This effort is separate from another ongoing effort by San Bernardino County to ensure public access to a public road through federal lands. The county has a pending application with the BLM seeking title to Camp Rock Road from Lucerne Valley to Barstow through issuance of “recordable disclaimers” under regulations currently not enforceable in Park Service jurisdiction.

Both efforts rely on Revised Statue 2477, a federal mining law that preserves public rights of way for states, counties and private entities who can prove that their routes existed prior to the year 1976.

The Interior Department and National Park Service have not yet responded to the County’s legal action.