Cannon insists BLM should not claim that land is owned by feds

Published January 17, 2006 12:36 am
Old survey: Congressman says 56 acres near Camp Williams is recognized as private property
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U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon is calling on the Bureau of Land Management to back away from claiming about 56 acres adjacent to Camp Williams that he says have been recognized as private property since the original federal survey was taken 150 years ago.

BLM officials argue a new survey proves the land, at the south end of Salt Lake County, rightfully belongs under federal ownership, and that any adjustment is beyond their control.

In a letter sent to BLM Director Kathleen Clarke, Cannon says a property "hiatus" created by a 2001 BLM survey is inconsistent with long-recognized and firmly documented property lines.

"I am concerned that the survey is the result of inaccurate data and will affect the rights of the county and numerous private property owners in a potentially damaging matter," Cannon wrote in a statement. "Accordingly, I request that the survey be withdrawn and that BLM discontinue any action."

Numerous complaints have flooded both Cannon's office and the Salt Lake County surveyor from owners who fear they may be asked to buy back their land from the government. Nine people have purchased chunks of the 56 acres, which include pipelines, irrigation rights of way and utility easements. No homes have been constructed.

"We're not trying to sit here as feds thumbing our nose at anyone," said Glen Carpenter, Utah BLM field office manager. "We have empathy for their concerns. But we also have laws we must abide by."

As written, the law stipulates that land not charted on a survey automatically falls under BLM management. Officials for the BLM insist the 2001 survey appropriately followed guidance precedent.

Carpenter, who recently informed Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon about the issue, says the surveyor has known about the dispute for more than a decade.

"It shouldn't be considered a surprise," he said, adding the land is less than pristine.

Still, Cannon, R-Utah, argues "these property rights have been consistently recognized since the original federal survey in the area in 1856."

Carpenter concedes the landowners are unhappy - "they probably feel they've already paid for it once," he said - but notes the feud is beyond the BLM's control.

Any solution may require that Congress enact a law restoring the vested property rights.

A spokesman for Cannon's office said Thursday's letter was intended as a first step toward that end.


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