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Nuck Woodward road closure draws scrutiny


Nuck Woodward3

By Rick Sherman
Sun Advocate Reporter

Opposition is mounting over a Forest Service proposal to temporarily close Nuck Woodward Road to motorized traffic. The dirt and partially graveled road links Carbon and Emery Counties from the town of Clear Creek over the Castle Valley Ridge and then down to Huntington Canyon. It has been considered an emergency evacuation route for residents of Clear Creek in the event of a wildfire or other natural disaster.
The status of the road has been in dispute for many years, but the recent plan for a temporary seasonal closure to motorized use has brought the issue to the forefront.
Also known as Forest Road 0110, the Nuck Woodward Road was among many roads and trails that were damaged by flooding following the Seeley wild fire in 2012. It was subsequently blocked off about a half-mile above the Stuart Guard Station and designated as a non-motorized trail. The road was reopened to motorized use in July of 2016 following extensive work by the Carbon County Road Department under an interlocal agreement with Emery County.
The road was the subject of a discussion during the Carbon County Commission meeting Aug. 2. Commissioners are considering a formal protest with the Forest Service over the proposed closure of Nuck Woodward Road, but the decision was made to table the agenda item and take it up at a future meeting to give more members of the public a chance to comment.
At the meeting, Harvey Howard, owner of the Desert Thunder Race Track, presented a petition on behalf of the Castle Country OHV Association. Howard said there were over 1,126 names on the petition asking that the county continue to do everything legally possible to keep the Nuck Woodward Road open. But more importantly, he said, “I’m here presenting some thoughts about disabled and elderly folks that are really looking at losing the opportunity to travel into these areas.”
Howard related, “I have been in this wheel chair for about 32 years- 32 years and two months, at noon today.” Howard said he feels excluded by not being able to drive a motorized vehicle to some areas of the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
He said he had a list from the Forest Service of more than 150 trails and roads marked as “likely not needed,” “and we all know what comes after that- something’s going on.” Howard envisioned there will be a domino effect, with other uses also being prohibited in many areas.
“They get rid of us, they get rid of the four-wheeler guys and the OHV guys — they’re not going to stop there,” he asserted. Howard predicted big game hunting on horseback would eventually be banned as well.
The Castle Country Off Highway Vehicle Association has encouraged its members to write letters to the governor, local elected officials, and the several ranger district offices of the Manti-La Sal National Forest in support of keeping the Nuck Woodward Road open to motorized use. According to the CCOHVA website, the Forest Service wants to designate the road “for foot and hoof traffic only through the hunting season, and eventually forever.”
Ferron/Price District Ranger Darren Olsen confirmed that there will be a seasonal restriction on the Nuck Woodward Road during the big game hunting seasons this fall. But he said, “There are absolutely no road closures planned now or in the foreseeable future.” He said the seasonal restriction would begin September 5 and continue through sometime in November. He noted many visitors have expressed a desire to have a quiet place to hunt or hike. “We are a multiple-use agency and are trying to provide multiple opportunities for visitors.” Olsen pointed out there are more than 1,300 miles of motorized roads and trails in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, “so opportunities are abundant there.”
According to the 2015 Travel Analysis Report for the Manti La Sal National Forest, the Forest Service’s goal is to develop a future minimum road system that is safe and responsive to public needs and desires, is affordable and efficient, has minimal adverse effects on ecology, and balances management with available funding.
Shared access advocates and many local officials contend the Nuck Woodward Road, among others, is still classified under the Revised Statute 2477. Commonly known as RS-2477, the statute was enacted by Congress in 1866 to encourage the settlement of the Western U.S. by developing a system of roads. It granted to counties and states a right-of-way across federal land when a road or highway was built.
RS-2477 was repealed under the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976, but the repeal was subject to valid existing rights such as, “any valid lease, permit, patent, right-of-way or other land use right or authorization existing on the date of approval of this Act.”
Former Carbon County Public Lands Director Rex Sacco said, “The bottom line is, the Forest Service has no authority to close the road because of an agreement with Carbon County.” He said the county has agreed to maintain the road to certain standards and receive Class B road funds for that purpose.
Sacco stated, “This is a good example of how the local public needs to be involved and participate in land use plans, so they know what is going on.”

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