September 20, 1999

Mr. Hector Villalobos, Manager
Bureau of Land Management
Ridgecrest Field Office
300 S. Richmond Road
Ridgecrest, CA 93555

RE: Wilderness Implementation


1) Congressional Letter to James F. Hinchman, Acting Comptroller General of
the United States General Accounting Office, 7/29/97

2) United States General Accounting Office response to Congressional Letter

3) US House Committee on Resources Press Release, 9/4/97, "Comptroller
General Rules That Congressional Approval Is Required For RS 2477 Changes;"
"Action Bans Secretary Babbitt From Voiding Right-of-Ways"

Dear Mr. Villalobos:

It is our understanding that your agency has begun obliterating roads within the tentative boundaries of the wilderness areas designated by the so-called Desert Protection Act (DPA), Public Law 103-433. We contend that these road obliterations are inappropriate because the roads are clearly recognized as rights of way under existing law.

In order to clarify our contention, we offer the following explanation and

On July 26, 1866, Congress passed a right-of-way law that stated, "the right of way for the construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public uses is hereby granted." The law was later codified as section 2477 of the Revised Statutes (RS 2477). The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), Public Law 94-579,

repealed RS 2477 but Section 701 provided that FLPMA did not terminate any
land use, including rights-of-way, that existed on October 21, 1976. Congress, in 1994, passed the so-called Desert Protection Act which, among other things, designated 69 wilderness areas to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The DPA, under Section 103(a), stipulates that the wilderness areas will be managed subject to valid existing rights. Because RS 2477 rights of way are valid existing rights that were reaffirmed by FLPMA, we contend that all roads which existed prior to October 21, 1976 are valid rights of way that can be legally traversed by the public using motor vehicles.

It has also been brought to our attention that your agency has obliterated roads approaching, or adjacent to, but outside of the tentative wilderness boundaries. We assert that the obliteration of the roads approaching or adjacent to the tentative wilderness boundaries constitute a defacto buffer zone that is forbidden by Section 103(d) of the DPA.

For the reasons cited above, this communication is to officially request that your agency cease obliteration of any existing routes of travel associated with the implementation of wilderness management activities related to the DPA and remove all signs designating the closure of roads that existed prior to October 21, 1976.

Thank you for your valuable time and consideration regarding this issue of great local importance.

        Ron Schiller, Chairman
        High Desert Multiple Use Coalition

Copy to:

Honorable William Thomas, U.S. House of Representatives
Honorable Jerry Lewis, U.S. House of Representatives
Honorable Jon McQuiston, Supervisor, Kern County, First District
Honorable Steve Perez, Supervisor, Kern County, Second District
Honorable Michael Dorame, Supervisor, Inyo County, Fifth District
Honorable Kathy Davis, San Bernardino County, First District

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