January 30, 2009

County Files Action to Preserve Public's Access to Camp Rock Road

By David Zook
Submitted by Dan Wilson
Best Syndication News

Nearly six years after San Bernardino County first sought to establish its authority over a critical High Desert road that crosses federal land, the Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized a court order seeking to compel the federal government to process the County's application.

"We made a good faith effort under existing laws and regulations to establish that Camp Rock Road is a vital route across federal land and that it should be permanently under County control," said First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who represents the High Desert. "We regret having to take this action to force the government to comply with its own rules and honor our rights under the Administrative Procedures Act."

On April 29, 2003, the County filed an application with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for a recordable disclaimer granting the County's right of way on Camp Rock Road, which stretches about 42 miles between Lucerne Valley and Daggett. A recordable disclaimer is similar to a quitclaim deed, which would give the County a legal record of its ownership of the road.

The recordable disclaimer process was established to allow rights of way to be formally recognized and recorded. There was previously no regulatory provision for recording rights of way under federal rules.

The application was filed under Revised Statute 2477, part of an 1866 mining law that allowed rights of way over public lands as part of the effort to settle the West. R.S. 2477 was repealed in 1976 with the adoption of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, but existing rights of way were preserved. The County submitted substantial evidence that Camp Rock Road was a well-established and maintained route long before 1976.

"We are merely seeking to protect the interests of our economy and our citizens who rely on this route to travel across federal land," Supervisor Mitzelfelt said. "There is no reason for this application to have languished for nearly six years, and we look forward to working with the federal government to resolve this issue."

The County's request for a writ of mandamus will be heard in U.S. District Court, Central District, in Riverside.