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By: Robert Janis

Utah Shared Access Alliance

Securing Access Is Sole Purpose of Utah Shared Access Alliance

In the state of Utah there is one organization that is focused like a laser beam on the issue of access to public lands. That group is the Utah Shared Access Alliance a.k.a. USA-ALL.

The organization was founded as a wing of the Utah Trail Machine Association in 1999 to counter the actions of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, a particularly radical environmentalist organization. “It started as the land use arm of the Utah Trail Machine Association, which is a group of guys who liked to motorcycle on public lands in Utah,” explained Michael Swenson, executive Director of USA-ALL. “From that it branched off and became its own entity. Instead of just concentrating on motorcycle issues it expanded into all forms of motorized access.”

Based in Provo, Utah, USA-ALL is a true alliance that brings individuals, businesses, associations, clubs, and others under one united front. Most of the major organizations of the State of Utah that represent dirt bikers, snowmobilers, ATVers, Four-Wheel Drive, and Jeep enthusiasts are allied with the organization. According to Swenson, there are about 10,000 donor/members.

USA-ALL aggressively communicates with the public about issues and solicits donations by utilizing its website (www.usaall.org), Facebook, Twitter, a blog, direct mail and aggressive e-mail campaigns. They have just started using a new polling and survey tool on their website and via e-mail to better serve their members and gain an understanding of where their membership stands on certain issues and what they want USA-ALL to do about them.

Moreover, in the past couple of months USA-ALL has gotten involved in viral marketing on the Internet. It has a FaceBook and Twitter page, and it is using a new html e-mail marketing service. “We are coming out of the stone age from just being a basic web page to becoming much more aggressive on the Internet,” said Swenson.

Road Ownership

The biggest issue concerning access in Utah is road ownership, explained Swenson. “Who has the right to manage and own a road? Who has title to roads in the rural part of the state,” he said. “It is not only a big issue here in Utah. It is huge for the entire country and primarily the western states. We think that if a key issue known as RS 2477 Rights of Way were resolved then the majority of the access issues will also be resolved.”

USA-ALL is heavily involved in the issue. “We are active in engaging the public and educating them on the issue and advising them on what they can do,” continued Swenson.

“It is an interesting problem in that USA-ALL can’t actually file a lawsuit concerning disputed roads,” added Swenson. “The court has determined that it has to be an entity like a county or the state. So USA-ALL is often cooperating and working with rural counties, and when we can, the state of Utah, by intervening in certain lawsuits. We are also involved in educating the public and working with the land managers to identify roads they are willing to concede are state or county owned.”

Swenson pointed out that there is a bill (H.R. 308 Rights of Way Recognition Act) that has been introduced into the Congress in Washington, D.C. that would resolve the issue and that the USA-ALL had input on early drafts. He explained that once passed, the legislation would not only resolve the issue for Utah, but would do so for all states.

The pending law was the result of a decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court involving a suit brought forward by the State of Utah and some counties of the state. It was this appeal that overturned a “poor and unprecedented” decision in a lower court by Judge Tina Campbell and rightfully set precedence to the status prior to Judge Campbell’s decision. In addition, the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling is the basis of the bill pending in Congress. “In effect, the law would codify the circuit court decision,” said Swenson.

“The interesting thing about the court decision and the legislation is that neither specifically defines what a right of way is. It leaves that up to state law,” said Swenson. “That’s the beautiful part of it. Rather than the federal government coming in and saying, ‘We are going to tell you what is or is not a road,’ it is the counties and the state that make that determination.”

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