Supervisors consider claiming jurisdiction over federal roads
A resolution claiming county jurisdiction over travel routes maintained by the U.S. Forest Service became the road not taken at Tuesday’s meeting of the Del Norte County Supervisors.
While it appeared on the agenda at his request, at the meeting Chairman Mike Sullivan pulled back a resolution that would declare the “exclusive authority of Del Norte County ... over certain roads, rights-of-way and routes of travel” here located on “certain lands also managed by the United States Forest Service or Bureau of Land Managment.”
The proposed policy aims to give the Del Norte County sheriff permitting authority over any gates or obstructions on roads inside county lines, as well as the right to remove any impediments “essential for the use of emergency medical personnel, Del Norte County Law Enforcement personnel, search and rescue personnel, firefighting activities and commerce.”
The resolution appeared without any accompanying staff report or background information and was copied nearly word for word from a measure passed last year in Apache County, Ariz., right down to the misspelling of “managment,” in the heading.
It comes on the heels of a long-awaited Memorandum of Understanding between the county and the USFS, signed to ensure more communication before federal proposals become policy. The county’s proposed resolution was born of frustration with the lack of impact this has had on updating a travel management plan, which determines which USFS roads will be publicly accessible.
“Every time we get close to some kind of compromise with the user groups, the environmental groups, and the county, what comes out from the USFS is completely foreign to everyone that was at the meeting,” Sullivan said Monday.
Sheriff Dean Wilson told the Triplicate he first heard about the Arizona law at a recent Constitutional Sheriffs Convention in Reno.
“I hope that the resolution will move forward and that the county can take ownership of what is clearly our jurisdictional authority,” Wilson told the Triplicate.
Not having thoroughly reviewed the county’s proposed resolution or been notified of its appearance on the agenda, Julie Ranieri, a spokesperson for the USFS, commented: “Under federal law, the Forest Service has jurisdiction over all National Forest System roads.”
Supervisor David Finigan, who wasn’t at the meeting, had this to say about the item that ultimately was not discussed:
“There needs to be some greater discussion on this item and it needs to be presented in such as a way that it shows good faith in the communication processes that we’ve already established,” Finigan said Wednesday. “I think the issue will surface again, but hopefully it will be done with a full presentation and with a chance for everybody to participate in the discussion.”
Also on Tuesday, supervisors agreed to pen a letter opposing the permanent passage of this year’s much-maligned State Responsibility Area fire fees, $150 bills that thousands of Del Norters received this year.