Rep. Paul Cook Introduces Bill to Empower Local Counties



By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)- Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) introduced HR 4313, the Historic Routes Preservation Act. This bipartisan bill provides an administrative means for the federal government to confirm rights-of-way on public lands administered by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture. Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Scott Tipton (R-CO), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) are original cosponsors.

One of only means a county has to confirm a right-of-way is to file a quiet title action in Federal District Court, an expensive and time-consuming process. After 39 years, many county records have been lost, old maps have been thrown away, and witnesses to many roads’ presence and use prior to 1976 are passing on.

The Historic Routes Preservation Act solves this problem by creating an administrative process for counties to resolve these rights of way without going to court. It applies only to existing travel routes and does not create new roads on public lands. Further, it will not apply to Department of Defense installations. The burden of proof to have a right-of-way recognized under this legislation will be with the governmental unit that files and administrative costs to the federal government should be minimal.

Cook said, “This bill empowers local counties and gives the Bureau of Land Management clear administrative responsibility when it comes to confirming rights-of-ways on our public lands. Right now, it’s an expensive and time consuming task for counties to assert existing rights-of-way on roads across federal land. Many small counties can’t afford to go to court to keep public roads open, leading to a loss of public access to public land. This bill changes the way things were done and forces the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to deal with these claims administratively.”

A member of the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

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