Commissioners hit stumbling block in vacating county roads

By Sarah Pridgeon
The County Commissioners are in the process of vacating all unused county roads, one township at a time, to clear the map of those that are no longer or have never been an actual, physical roadway. Residents of Miller Creek Road, however, are not keen to sign easement agreements that they fear may be held against them if it is selected as the access route for Rare Earth Elements’ planned Bull Hill rare earth mine.
The vacation process is a housekeeping issue to make sure the roads for which the county has easements from landowners or the state are the ones that exist on the ground. Certain roads in the county were surveyed and granted easements at some point in the past, but have either long been abandoned; migrated before they were upgraded; were not upgraded from the paths used by wagons a century or more ago; or never existed at all.
During the commissioners’ regular session at the beginning of September, action was taken to vacate such unused roads to the south of Moorcroft and in the Moskee area.
Attention was then turned to Miller Creek Road, with the commissioners reviewing the status of that section with landowners from the area. The road has migrated from its original surveyed position.
The county intends to vacate those unused portions and secure easements for the road’s actual physical location. Only one of the landowners contacted had thus far signed an easement, said County Attorney Joe Baron.
“We’re waiting for the landowners to provide the right-of-way easements before we go ahead and vacate [the unused portions] and get it resolved,” he said.
Whether Miller Creek Road becomes the main access route for removal of mined ore from the Bull Hill Mine will not be confirmed until the Forest Service completes its review of RER’s Plan of Operations.