From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 24 - September 9, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County applies for Erramouspe Road easement

by Cat Urbigkit

When presented with an application form from the Bureau of Land Management for the Sublette County Commission to apply for a Federal Land Policy and Management Act right-of-way for the Erramouspe Road Tuesday, Commissioner Betty Fear hesitated, asking, "Do we really want to do this?"

"It's part of the appeal of the case," responded Commissioner Bill Cramer.

"If that's the only thing we can do, then I'm in favor of it," Fear, still balking, said. "I just hate to give in to them."

Fear was speaking of the long-standing dispute with the federal agency over the Erramouspe Road, noting that the BLM has tried all along to get the county to apply for a right-of-way, when it's been the county's position that approval from the BLM isn't required for the road that's been used by the public for decades. The road crosses five miles of public land before ending at the Erramouspe family's ranch at the Big Sandy River.

Although the Sublette County Commission stepped in to help the Erramouspes in their dispute with the BLM by claiming the road was a county road pursuant to RS-2477, a long revoked federal statute, the county lost the resulting lawsuit. A federal court dismissed the case because of an earlier Wyoming Supreme Court ruling in another case. The federal court determined that the state's decision, based on a 1919 state law, "effectively vacated that status of any road, including those established pursuant to RS-2477, which were not recorded and established by the pertinent board of county commissioners."

So while the county is now seeking a permit in order to help the Erramouspes, the larger issue still exists.

Sublette County Attorney Van Graham pointed out that although the county appealed the decision, the appeal is on hold in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow time for the county to work through the permitting process with the BLM.

Graham said that having the county file for the FLPMA application is part of the deal in leaving the case on hold. If the application isn't filed, the case won't necessarily be held any longer.

"They're holding the gun to our heads in having to file the FLPMA," said Cramer.

If the county could bide some time in the case, it would also give the Wyoming Legislature time to act in clarifying the old Wyoming statute cited by the Wyoming Supreme Court. Graham suggests that the legislature needs to amend the law to clarify that it does not apply to roads over federal lands. Then the courts would be forced to look at things differently.

John Pierre and Joy Erramouspe attended Tuesday's commission meeting to express concern that the county not lose their claim for the RS-2477 right-of-way, while also pointing out that if the county obtained an easement for the road, perhaps the BLM would finally make a move to resolve a land transfer issue the Erramouspes have with the BLM. The BLM has refused to move forward on the deal until the road issue is resolved.

Graham maintained that the RS-2477 claim and the FLPMA easement application are "entirely unrelated" and suggested that by the county filing the application "doesn't give anything away."

The commission agreed that while the court precedent in this case is far-reaching, legislators from throughout the state need to be informed so that the statute can be amended to correct the situation.

Commission Chairman Gordon Johnston said, "I do not foresee any help from the legislature."

Graham pointed out, "It's an issue of broad interest across the state," to which Fear added, "It's not just Sublette County."

The commission voted to file the FLPMA application with the BLM.

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