In November of 2006 the Inyo County Supervisors decided to sue the Federal Government over roads in Death Valley National Park. Now, conservation groups report that a federal judge has tossed the Inyo suit out of court.
Inyo County had sued the federal government over the Lost Section Road, the Petro Road, (also known as the Greenwater Road) and the Last Chance Road.
Inyo Supervisors were concerned that when the 1994 Desert Protection Act made large areas of southern Inyo County into Wilderness Sreas, sections of county owned and maintained roads were closed off to vehicle traffic.
The conservation groups were concerned with the impact of the roads on the wildlife of Death Valley like the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep as well as the impacts to important petroglyph sites.
In the end, this competition over obscure desert trails appears to have come down to a competition between obscure laws.
Inyo County had sued for control over the roads under a statute from 1866 known as R.S. 2477. This law was repealed in 1976, but Assistant Inyo County Counsel Randy Keller was able to find people who traveled these roads before 1976.
The law that won the day appears to be the Wilderness Act. Conservation groups report that the judge ruled that with a 12 year statute of limitation, the county waited too long to assert claims to the three roads because they were included in wilderness study areas by the BLM in 1979.
Barring further changes, these roads and tacks up sandy washes in the desert will remain closed. Whether the Inyo Supervisors choose to appeal is yet to be seen.