Seeking a compromise on road blocked by locked gate

I attended last week’s County Commission meeting and listened to the discussion about the road issue on Big Lookout Mountain. I have hunted in that area for more than 40 years and was dismayed when I encountered the locked gate near the top of the Manning Creek road blocking access to public land. I spoke with the county road department and two of the commissioners, and learned of the county ordinance declaring the Connor Creek road from the Snake River road to the Lookout Mountain road a county road under Revised Statute (RS) 2477.

Using RS 2477 as a tool to claim jurisdiction over roads in the West has been asserted many times. Generally these assertions take place on public lands, but some have occurred on private lands where documentation shows the route existed prior to the land’s transfer out of the public domain. The RS 2477 case law is extremely complex and generally is consistent with state law regarding road definition, location, duration of use, improvements (or the lack of), tread, etc. One common element is that the rule of “… as is, where is…” applies, meaning that significant route modification, surface changes, or widening are not allowed. If routes asserted on public lands under RS 2477 need to be modified, the county applies for a right-of-way under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). In the case of private lands the county would negotiate with the landowner for a right-of-way or easement for any modifications.

An important point in this case is whether or not the county has enough documentation to establish its claim on the private lands in question. In the recent past, the existing county ordinance regarding this road was enacted. The private landowner, taking issue with the county’s documentation, installed a locked gate. Litigation seems likely to resolve this dispute. I hope it doesn’t come to that. My sincere hope is that a negotiated settlement resulting in ensuring public access to public lands from the top of the Lookout Mountain road can be reached. I am confident that both parties (with input from adjoining landowners, hunters, and recreationists) can do this.

Dave Hunsaker

Baker City

Enjoyed re-reading two recent Herald articles

Relaxing in my living room, after shoveling my walk from today’s snowfall, I re-read some very pleasant articles by the paper’s editor, Jayson Jacoby. I have long enjoyed his obvious enjoyment of nature, and his very unique writing style, but somehow I really took to his two articles of Feb. 8. One article, concerning the natural water cycle in Oregon, including the dual effect of the Elkhorn Mountains, was not only informative, but fun to think about. How many articles have you read that can combine a 7-year-old boy’s fun in a few puddles, with the hydrologic cycles in Oregon, in such a unique and fun way?

The second article concerned the frozen art along various different rivers in winter, and with similar musical comparisons of creeks (or cricks) in warmer months. To me, God’s beauty in nature surrounds us at any season of the year. During most of the year we’re usually too busy with our own lives to pay much attention to the gifts of nature. Mr. Jacoby often reminds us to open our eyes to what we have. But on a cloudy winter day, when nature puts on her quiet, restoring effects of winter beauty to counteract the politics, injustices of the world, rampant hatred, and innumerable other problems, Mr. Jacoby hits a seldom-used nerve of appreciation in us to turn our hearts toward peace and tranquility. Many thanks, Jayson, for reminding us.

Peter Jeffs

Baker City

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