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Old 07-20-2008, 09:45 PM   #5
Ceteris non Paribus
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Joined: Feb 2007
Location: Elizabeth, Colorado
Oddometer: 3,353
Originally Posted by Opie
Yeah, but I can't tell what's a legit sign and what's not legit. How can you tell?
Unfortunately, there's no easy way to tell. In Wyoming, you can check the commissioners' records at the local courthouse to find out the surveyed route of all the county roads, and get copies of the easements (or orders) establishing the road. Even then, you can get into issues regarding whether the county road has been abandoned, and reverted to private.

The forest service roads are not so easy, because the forest service is so bad about either maintaining their roads, or keeping records regarding which ones are public and private. It is not uncommom for private inholders in the forest who block a road through their property, which was built and maintained by the public long before their property was private. The Forest Service (or the public) is left to file suit to enjoin the blockage, and they usually conclude it is not worth the money to bring suit.

I just finished working on a lawsuit where this precise issue was involved, and the forest service won the suit, but they had allowed the road to remain blocked for over a decade. If they hadn't convinced the U.S. Attorney to bring suit to establish a trail along the old railroad bed passing through the same property, they would never have sued just to reopen the road.

There are several theories under which the forest service, the local county commission or the public can sue to enjoin a landowner from blocking a public road. (prescriptive easements, R.S. 2477, implied easement, simple lack of right) Sadly, the amount of historical research necessary to prevail in those suits means that few ever get brought, due to the cost. The private landowners know this, so they routinely just block the roads, and dare anyone to do anything about it.

The worst abuse I've seen in Wyoming is where a private landowner (with buddies on the county commission) will grant an easement for a county road, get the county to pay to build the road, then convince the commissioners to abandon the road later. The landowner, in the process, just got the taxpayers to build him a nice long driveway, thank you very much. I can point to a couple of these in my county.
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