Appeals panel rules against Kane County's sign swap


In a split decision, a federal appeals court panel in Denver ruled Tuesday that Kane County had no authority to remove signs restricting off-highway vehicle use, and put up new signs inviting such use, in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and other areas overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

…In 2005, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society sued the county over the sign swapping and in May 2008, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ruled Kane County was in the wrong: It hadn't proved in court that it owned the roads in question, so the federal government got to decide how those rights of way should be used.

Two judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver agreed with Campbell; Justice Michael McConnell, a former Utahn, dissented, arguing that Kane County shouldn't have to prove in court that it owns the roads. He also sided with Kane County's argument that the environmental groups had no standing in the case and said the ruling will only make it more difficult to resolve the property issue.

…Former BLM director Pat Shea, now a Salt Lake City attorney who joined the environmentalists in the Kane County case along with past agency directors Jim Baca and Mike Dombeck, said he hoped Kane County residents and political leaders begin making Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument into an economic engine rather than viewing it as a lemon.