From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 14 - July 3, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Commission to consider hiring RS-2477 attorney

by Cat Urbigkit

The Erramouspe Road controversy was once again on the Sublette County Commission meeting agenda this week, with John Pierre and Joy Erramouspe in attendance to provide the commission with an update.

The road is at the center of a jurisdictional dispute between the commission and the Bureau of Land Management. Last spring, the commission passed a resolution declaring the road, located south of Boulder, a county road pursuant to RS-2477, an ancient federal statute.

That self-enacting statute stated " the right-of-way of constructed highways on public lands not reserved for public uses is hereby granted."

The BLM claims jurisdiction and wants the Erramouspes to file for BLM permission to maintain the road, which traverses five miles into the Erramouspe Ranch. That doesn't sit well with the Erramouspes, who have used and maintained the road for about 70 years without federal interference. The Erramouspes noted that the county has conducted maintenance work on the road on occasion as well.

John Pierre Erramouspe reported Tuesday that the BLM now wants a meeting between the county, the family and the federal agency.

"I think we're getting close to that meeting," Erramouspe said. He reminded the commission that the last time he spoke with the commission, he had a letter from Cheyenne attorney Karen Budd-Falen with a list of three items that needed to be addressed to serve as a foundation for possible future litigation. Those items were verification of construction, documentation of public use and verification that no lands withdrawn or otherwise reserved are included in the dispute.

Erramouspe reported that since his last meeting with the commission, he hired Budd-Falen to begin research on the case, adding that he has been conducting research as well. Erramouspe said much work has been done addressing the latter two items, but documents describing actual construction of the road are harder to find.

Erramouspe said he plans to go to Denver to search the files of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the agency that did some construction on the road many years ago.

He also expressed hope that perhaps someone in the county can remember when the Buckskin Crossing Bridge washed out and the county used the Erramouspe Road to get around to fix the bridge. He said at that time, the county agreed to conduct maintenance work on the Erramouspe Road if access to fix Buckskin Crossing was granted. Erramouspe said his father believed this occurred in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Erramouspe noted that this research helped to establish the baseline for possible litigation, and requested the county consider hiring Budd-Falen to take the case for the county. He added that he has paid $3,000 in attorney fees towards researching the road issue already.

"I feel it's a county road issue," Erramouspe said.

Commission Chairman Bill Cramer suggested the commission consider hiring the law firm because there is a public interest involved in providing access to public lands in the area.

Commissioner Betty Fear another public interest to be served would be having the RS-2477 issue resolved one way or the other.

After discussing the issue, the commission decided that Cramer would consult with Budd-Falen about the county's interest in the matter and possible fees involved. At commission meeting on July 16, the commission will decide whether to retain Budd-Falen to work for the county on the case.

In other business, the commission voted to designate the Sublette Examiner the county's legal newspaper for the next year.

At Tuesday's bid opening, the Examiner submitted a $2 per column inch bid for the county's legal advertising, while the Pinedale Roundup, which had held the legal designation, submitted a bid of $1.75 per column inch.

Fear noted how close the bids were and suggested that the commission consider switching the designation back and forth between the county's two newspapers each year. Her fellow commissioners agreed, so long as the cost remains close between the papers.

Commissioner Gordon Johnston made the motion to grant the official county newspaper designation to the Examiner, to which the commission vote was unanimously in support. Johnston noted that while the commission may intend to start a tradition of switching the designation, upcoming elections could result in changes to what the county actually does in the future.

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