From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 35 - November 23, 2004
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Erramouspe Road options pondered

by Cat Urbigkit

The John Erramouspe family may finally have undisputed access to their ranch, if one of several possible solutions currently in the works is finalized.

House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen of Daniel has requested that the Legislative Service Office draft a bill that would amend existing state statute in a manner that would allow the Erramouspe Road controversy to be addressed. He now has the backing of one of the state’s largest agricultural organizations.

Olsen made the request to LSO some time ago, after Sublette County Attorney Van Graham suggested the legislature could resolve the issue, after the county’s lawsuit in the matter failed. The bill will be filed for in preparation for the next legislative session, due to begin in January.

In addition, the Sublette County Commission has filed an application for a right-of-way grant for public access to the road with the Bureau of Land Management. BLM Realty Specialist Patricia Hamilton said Friday that her agency has processed that request and has submitted a grant offer back to the county commission for its consideration. Should the commission accept the grant offer, the BLM will approve it, but the county may want additional negotiations on terms. The commission is expected to consider the matter at its next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 7.

The Erramouspe Road crosses five miles of BLM-administered lands before ending in the ranch’s yard along the Big Sandy River. It has been used by the Erramouspe family to access their ranch for some 70 years. About 10 years ago, the BLM caught the Erramouspes working on the road and demanded the family apply for and purchase a right-of-way for the road.

John Erramouspe didn’t think much of the idea of paying the BLM for a right that had existed prior to the creation of the BLM, so he balked. Eventually the Sublette County Commission stepped in to help by claiming the road was a county road pursuant to RS-2477, a long-revoked federal statute. A lawsuit followed, with a federal court dismissing 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 and could have impacts across the state.

In September, County Attorney Van Graham said, “In the best of all worlds, the Wyoming Legislature would address this issue and make it clear that the statute the Wyoming Supreme Court used doesn’t apply to public lands.”

Olsen’s proposal would do just that. Olsen’s effort received a boost last week when the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, at its annual meeting, enacted a resolution requesting the “Wyoming Legislature amend the Wyoming road statute so that its provisions do not apply to roads crossing public lands.”

Olsen said his legislation will “clean up” the existing statute, adding that he will confer with Graham about the bill to be sure it addresses the problem appropriately.

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