SJR 13: Relating to RS 2477 rights-of-way.

00SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 13 01 Relating to RS 2477 rights-of-way. 02 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA: 03 WHEREAS Revised Statute 2477 (RS 2477) provided, "the right-of-way for the 04 construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public uses, is hereby granted"; 05 and 06 WHEREAS the Congress repealed RS 2477 in 1976 in the Federal Land Policy and 07 Management Act, but the Act expressly reserved existing rights-of-way created under 08 RS 2477; and 09 WHEREAS the Alaska State Legislature funded a $1,200,000 project conducted by 10 the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to document the RS 2477 rights-of-way in 11 Alaska; and 12 WHEREAS the project found more than 560 routes that qualified as RS 2477 rights- 13 of-way; and 14 WHEREAS RS 2477 rights-of-way resulted from the public's use of routes to travel

01 between settlements and to gain access to resource areas in the state from the late 1800's until 02 1976; and 03 WHEREAS it is in the best interests of the state to preserve this historical and 04 traditional rural transportation system because these routes form the transportation network for 05 surface travel between rural settlements, provide access to mineralized and other natural 06 resource use areas, and create significant entrepreneurial, recreational, and tourism 07 opportunities; and 08 WHEREAS Alaska is committed to a balanced philosophy of development and wise 09 use of state resources; and 10 WHEREAS the surface transportation system in the state is inadequate to meet the 11 economic and social demands of the state and its citizens; and 12 WHEREAS the United States Department of the Interior adopted regulations 13 interpreting RS 2477 in 1938 stating that RS 2477 is "effective upon the construction or 14 establishing of highways, in accordance with State laws, over public lands not reserved for 15 public uses"; and 16 WHEREAS the interpretation of RS 2477 by the United States Department of the 17 Interior remained unchanged until the repeal of the statute, when the regulations were also 18 repealed; and 19 WHEREAS federal and state courts have consistently ruled for 100 years that it was 20 the intent of the Congress in enacting RS 2477 that the law of the state where the RS 2477 21 right-of-way is located defines the acts that constitute acceptance and the scope of the right-of- 22 way; and 23 WHEREAS the United States Department of the Interior is attempting to 24 administratively rescind the longstanding and widely accepted interpretation of RS 2477 by 25 adopting regulations that would reverse prior regulations and court-made law by forcing states 26 and local governments to follow an excessively bureaucratic process, to undertake costly 27 procedures, and to enter into extensive litigation that could severely restrict or eliminate many 28 RS 2477 rights-of-way in Alaska; and 29 WHEREAS Alaska's congressional delegation successfully derailed implementation 30 of Department of the Interior's regulations by inserting language prohibiting implementation 31 in the fiscal year 1996 budget; and

01 WHEREAS fiscal year 1997 appropriations allow for the publication of regulations 02 but specifically prohibit the regulations from taking effect unless "expressly authorized by an 03 Act of Congress"; and 04 WHEREAS Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt issued a new policy on January 22, 05 1997, revoking a 1988 policy and establishing a new revised policy "for carrying out any 06 determinations the Department might be called upon to make regarding RS 2477"; and 07 WHEREAS the new policy by Secretary Babbitt essentially requires that each 08 RS 2477 right-of-way in Alaska be established through lengthy and costly litigation; and 09 WHEREAS Secretary Babbitt's new policy establishes new requirements essentially 10 requiring the Department of the Interior's approval before RS 2477 rights-of-way assertions 11 will be acceptable; and 12 WHEREAS Secretary Babbitt's new policy is designed to create a bureaucratic 13 impediment to the State of Alaska's legitimate claims to RS 2477 rights-of-way; and 14 WHEREAS this new policy illustrates again the continuing and escalating "War on 15 the West" being waged by Secretary Babbitt; 16 BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature endorses continuing efforts of 17 the Alaska delegation in Congress to preserve and protect the original meaning of Revised 18 Statute 2477 to provide adequate access to the state's land and resources and to provide 19 Alaska the same privileges extended to every other state in the Union; and be it 20 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature respectfully requests the 21 members of the Alaska delegation in Congress to ensure that federal law recognizes the 22 controlling nature of state law in regard to the construction and establishment of RS 2477 23 rights-of-way, as recognized by 100 years of judicial decisions and 38 years of Department 24 of the Interior regulations by enacting such a provision into federal statutes; and be it 25 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature respectfully requests the 26 Congress to include a reasonable period and a reasonable process for the assertion, 27 recognition, and determination of RS 2477 rights-of-way as part of any legislation addressing 28 RS 2477 rights-of-way; and be it 29 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature respectfully requests that 30 Governor Tony Knowles direct the appropriate state departments to implement a proactive and 31 aggressive program to assert the state's ownership of RS 2477 rights-of-way.

01 COPIES of this resolution shall be sent to the Honorable Tony Knowles, Governor 02 of Alaska; and to the Honorable Ted Stevens and the Honorable Frank Murkowski, U.S. 03 Senators, and the Honorable Don Young, U.S. Representative, members of the Alaska 04 delegation in Congress.