From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 16 - July 18, 2002
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Commission: Full speed ahead on RS-2477

by Cat Urbigkit

Sublette County Commission-ers, in unanimous action Tuesday, decided to hire property-rights attorney Karen Budd-Falen of Cheyenne to represent the county in asserting its RS-2477 jurisdiction of the Erramouspe Road.

At the commission's last meeting two weeks ago, Stan McKee of the Bureau of Land Management proposed that the county seek a BLM-authorized right-of-way pursuant to the Federal Land Planning and Management Act (FLPMA). McKee told the commission that one of the big differences between FLPMA and RS-2477 rights-of-way are that FLPMAs can be done "almost overnight," while it could take years to have the RS-2477 issue resolved. McKee pressed for the commission to choose the FLMPA route, stating that it would be quicker and easier, "then if you wish to pursue the RS-2477 issue, that can still be done." McKee also alleged there were black footed-ferrets in the area of the road.

But John Pierre Erramouspe spoke with commissioners Tuesday about the BLM's proposed FLPMA grant offered to the county. He pointed out that the BLM's proposal restricted any surface disturbance or construction activity from February through July.

"Those are the times of year you need maintenance," Erramouspe said.

He told the commission he hoped it would continue to assert its RS-2477 jurisdiction, in which "all the black-footed ferrets, all the sage grouse and all the raptors ... don't apply."

Erramouspe was referring to the right-of-way offered to the county by the BLM, which prohibited disturbance from Feb. 15 to July 31 to protect raptors; from Feb. 1 to July 31 to protect sage grouse; and noted that survey efforts for black footed-ferrets scheduled for next month may demonstrate other stipulations are needed as well.

Commissioner Betty Fear said the commission wanted to hear the Erramouspes' view, and expressed concern that the BLM was going to issue a trespass notice to the Erramouspes.

Erramouspe urged the commission to continue the RS-2477 assertion because it's the right thing to do.

"We're at the point, Betty, we've got nowhere to go," Erramouspe said. "We would like Sublette County's help to do it."

Commission Chairman Bill Cramer asked his comrades, "Are we ready to fix bayonets and charge?" to which Commissioner Gordon Johnston replied, "Yep."

The commission consulted with Karen Budd-Falen via telephone conference call.

Cramer told Budd-Falen, "We, as the Sublette County Commission, would like to retain you to represent Sublette County in this RS-2477 matter as it relates to this Erramouspe Road."

Cramer said the county wants to pursue the RS-2477 issue to help the Erramouspes, but added that it "is in the interest of the public of Sublette County" as well as in the interests of the people of the entire state.

Budd-Falen said as a technical, legal matter, it is possible to obtain a temporary FLPMA right-of-way without jeopardizing the county's legal position on the RS-2477, but she questioned why the BLM insists that the FLPMA grant is an easier process than the RS-2477.

Budd-Falen said she has spoken with representatives of the current administration about this very RS-2477 issue. Budd-Falen said the current administration's stand is that such RS-2477 applications will be recognized by the BLM unless the BLM can find a reason not to.

"BLM has no ability to reject an RS-2477 if it meets the qualifications," Budd-Falen said.

Budd-Falen said she would begin the work to take quick action in supplying the BLM with the paperwork asserting the county's RS-2477 jurisdiction of the road, adding that she sees no problem in pursuing both types of right-of-way concurrently.

Budd-Falen is also the Erramouspes' attorney in the matter and the commission agreed to pay Budd-Falen for work billed to the Erramouspes for handling the road issue.

Cramer, "They may want to got to the mat over this one" and asked Budd-Falen if she would be "the county's barking dog" in the matter, to which Budd-Falen responded, "I would be happy to do that."

After the conference call concluded, Sublette County Surveyor Paul Scherbel said he isn't so sure that that FLPMA process won't jeopardize the RS-2477 claim.

"I just plain don't trust them," Scherbel said. "You will make a mistake if you sign this."

Erramouspe agreed, stating: "It scares me."

The commission had specifically requested that language be added to the FLPMA right-of-way stating that if this type of a right-of-way were granted, it would not jeopardize the county's RS-2477 claim, but that's not exactly what the BLM came back with.

The BLM's letter of response noted: "The requested stipulation is considered a 'non-guidance' stipulation and will require approval from the Wyoming State Director prior to placing it in the grant. I anticipate that the State Director will approve the request to incorporate the stipulation into the grant."

The proposed grant for the road included 19 separate "terms and conditions" as well.

Fear said the terms of the permit would have to be changed and "a lot of this language has to be changed as far as I'm concerned."

Cramer pointed out that a FLPMA grant that would be acceptable to the commission probably won't be acceptable to the BLM - that the BLM will reject the grant proposed by the county. Cramer added that the only reason for the county to apply for a FLPMA grant would be to hold the BLM off from issuing the Erramouspes a trespass, an action McKee threatened two weeks ago.

"What they can't get one way, they'll get another," Cramer said. "They'll get it through endangered species, through black footed-ferret skulls ... They figure 'if we can't get them this way, we'll get them that way.' That's what they're looking for."

Cramer said: "Why are they doing this? Why, why, why?"

He questioned why the federal agency would want to fight Sublette County for a road that has been there and been used for more than 70 years, noting it's not a two-track road up for debate, but a well-established, constructed road.

"Why are they in such a bru-ha-ha over this?" Cramer questioned, pondering whether it was a battle for the agency to maintain control over its "empire."

Scherbel said the Erramouspe Road dispute with Sublette County "is the bellwether for the BLM" and "If they win, no one will get an RS-2477, so we're it."

Cramer added, "They don't want anybody to do anything, so they're going to fight."

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